LOUISVILLE—The middle of the night, 3 a.m. It’s chilly. Maybe 30 or 40 degrees. A car squeals into the Baptist Health Hospital parking lot on two wheels. David Patrick is driving. His wife, Sarah, is in the passenger seat, having contractions.
“HOLD ON, HONEY!” he shouts.
She is grasping her pregnant belly. Breathing heavily.
As a side note, I was born under emergency-style circumstances, too. Sort of. My mother had to drive herself to the hospital. My father was working late. Her water broke in the car. She made it to the delivery room just in time. When I entered this world, my mother named me “Sean,” after Sean Connery, the actor who played James Bond.
When asked why my mother named me this, she answered, “Because Sean Connery is one sexy man.”
In all my life, I’ve never met another kid named after James Bond who successfully survived his childhood.
But getting back to David and Sarah. There they are, in dire straits. They jump out of the vehicle. They waddle up the hospital sidewalk. A pregnant woman can only waddle so fast.
“He’s coming!” shouts Sarah.
They are at the west entrance of the hospital, and security is tight at hospitals these days because—just in case you forgot—this is an international pandemic. The west doors are locked.
David pounds on the glass. “HELP!”
David tries two more entrances. All locked. Nobody answers. He scrambles back to Sarah. Now they are rushing back to their car. David plans on driving to the emergency room entrance on the opposite side of the hospital.
All of a sudden, Sarah stops shuffling on the sidewalk.
David hears a gush of water fall onto pavement.
“He’s coming!” Sarah says.
It’s a little ironic, David and Sarah are standing beneath the glow of a lit-up hospital sign that reads: “Labor and Delivery.” This is not a dream. This is your life, David Patrick.
He helps Sarah to lie down onto the pavement. Once she is on the cold ground, David thinks about what he will do next. He removes a cellphone, he dials a number. The conversation probably goes something like this:
“911, please state your emergency.”
“My wife’s having a baby on the sidewalk! Her water just broke!”
“Remain calm, sir. I need your insurance information.”
No, I’m only kidding, 911 operators would never ask for your insurance information until you’ve taken them out to dinner first. The truth is, while I was writing this column, I interviewed a few dispatch operators who have helped guide emergency births over the phone. Both operators said that it was one of the most rewarding moments in their career.
“After my first baby,” said one operator, “I was so worked up when it was over, I cried for probably 20 minutes. That’s how much joy you feel.”
Anyway, what the operator actually told David to do was remove his wife’s pants, right there, in front of God and country. So he did, then he placed the phone on the pavement and asked the operator what to do next.
The voice on the phone guided him the whole way.
David recalls, “My wife is screaming, ‘He’s coming! He’s coming!’ I suddenly see about a third of the top of my new son’s head, so I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh. This is really happening.’”
He tells her to push. She does. Sarah’s face turns red, veins in her forehead pop. She gives it all she has.
“Push,” says the speaker-phone voice.
About 15 seconds after the head appears, the baby emerges from the birth canal.
“He just flipped out like a fish,” David says. “It was completely surreal, like a bad fever dream.”
The 911 operator walks David through the next crucial steps, too. David wraps his son in a swaddling leather jacket. David’s hands are crimson red, his clothes are covered in blood.
“Giving birth looks like a hog killing,” my 911 operator friend tells me. “Lotta people wouldn’t believe how much blood is involved.”
But David is hanging in there. He’s doing all the right things, he’s trying not to pass out on the sidewalk.
“Sir?” says 911 dispatch. “You’re gonna have to cut the umbilical cord.”
So David looks around for sharp items, but there are none. He’s in the middle of nowhere, and he doesn’t make a habit of carrying surgical-grade scissors in his pocket. He has nothing but a COVID-19 facemask. His grandmother knitted these masks for the family.
“I found a mask and rolled it like a really tight tortilla.”
And David ties off his son’s umbilical cord with the straps from a coronavirus facemask.
In a few minutes, emergency lights are flashing in the distance. The night is filled with the sounds of an ambulance. Nurses are rushing from the hospital after they’ve heard what is happening. Soon, an entire medical staff has swarmed David and his wife like termites.
“Within a few minutes,” says David, “we had a real party going on.”
EMTs load Sarah and her newborn son onto a gurney. David is touching Sarah’s face, reminding her that it’s going to be okay. And if there is a dry eye in Kentucky tonight, it’s made of glass.
The baby weighs 6 pounds 13 ounces. He is healthy, happy, and they name him Navi Bond Patrick.
David explains the kid’s middle name: “James Bond is one of my all-time favorite movie franchises.”
Well, how do you like that.