Silver Lake Rescue Squad delivers baby in ambulance during blizzard

Florence Olson, Lynn McFarlane and Dean Fryda.

Responding to a call for a woman in labor and in need of a ride to the hospital is not particularly extraordinary in the world of being an emergency medical technician. At the time that most people would call, there is plenty of time to get to one of the area hospitals, which are about 10 to 15 minutes away at non-emergency speed on a good day.

Ahh on a good day. That’s the key.

What might have been a fairly routine call any other day was turned into a nail-biting and memorable call instead — with a happy ending to boot — when Silver Lake Rescue responded to a woman in labor in Salem on Tuesday evening during the worst of  this week’s blizzard conditions.

You may have remembered reading it here, where we picked up on it from the scanner. Silver Lake Rescue and Salem Fire/Rescue received the call at about 9:25 p.m.

Silver Lake EMTs Lynn McFarlane and Florence Olson were just getting back from a call. Fellow rescue squad member Dean Fryda also responded because he was nearby after yet another call, meeting McFalane and Olson at the house.

Upon arriving, the trio found the mom on the floor in labor with contractions about two 2 minutes apart. They got her out to the ambulance , and then the adventure began.

Fryda was driving the ambulance. He said he knew that in order just to get out onto Highway 50 from snow covered and slopped 76th Street, he was going to have to gun it. He did, which sent the squad into a fishtail, and drew some objections from the back. Nevertheless they were headed for Aurora Medical Center in Kenosha.

Once up on the highway, McFarlane called to see if they could get a county plow as an escort. The crew picked up the plow at about Highway 50 and Highway 45 and followed it along for a distance.

Fryda remembers thinking that the plow was actually slowing him down.

“I was actually going a little faster (before the plow),” Fryda said.

That’s when he saw the brake lights of the plow truck go on and the plow swerve off the road. The ambulance stopped to check on the situation. The driver was OK, but stuck with his rear wheels in the air in the right side ditch.

The EMTs pressed on.

The driving conditions that Fryda describes sound nerve racking. With very limited visibility, he had to try to gauge if he was in the center of the road by what landmarks he could make out — like speed limit signs. Thank goodness Highway 50 is as straight as an arrow from Highway 45 east to the I.

Just after Fryda saw the lights that signaled the approach of I-94, he heard a loud noise and then a baby’s cry.

He radioed in to dispatch that it was  a boy. They were literally seconds from turning into the hospital parking lot.

All three agree that the baby likely would not have been born in the ambulance on a clearer day. But they could tell the labor was advancing quickly and given the weather Tuesday — the trip took them about 45 minutes for 12 miles — they were prepared to deliver a baby. It was a first for all of them as EMTs.

“We knew we would deliver en route or as soon as we go to the hospital,” McFarlane said.

Word was Thursday evening that baby and mom were doing well.

Olson , with almost 20 years of EMT work under her belt, was the most experienced of the crew. She actually delivered the baby, a feat she has always said would be her exit from the squad.

“That’s what I said: When I deliver a baby, I’m done,” Olson said.

But since Olson is in the midst of paramedic training, she will not be retiring after all, despite the delivery.

“It didn’t work out that way,” she said.


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