Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Born on Highway 59

Paramedics help as couple's trip to hospital sees baby arrive early

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Beth Friesen expected the birth of her second child would be no big deal -- until the baby insisted on making his entrance while the Manitoba mother was driving on Highway 59.

When Friesen's contractions started Thursday night, she and her husband, Arlin Friesen, figured they had time to make the 44-kilometre trip from their Niverville home to St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg.

"We've done this before so we thought it was no big deal," the dad said.

They dutifully timed the contractions all night on an iPhone. "There's an app for that," Arlin said.

In the morning, Arlin called his mom to stay with the couple's two-year-old toddler, Anabelle, and the couple headed out at 6:30 a.m.

From that moment on, the baby took over and the couple's frantic ride into the city became a roadside delivery.

Baby Zade was born just south of the city, with the help of paramedics from the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service.

Chris Broughton, the president of Winnipeg's paramedics union, said crews deliver about 40 newborns a year and when the birth goes well like this one did, it's a career highlight.

"It's something paramedics enjoy being a part of. It's vastly different from the tragedies we see day in and day out. Some paramedics go their entire careers without a childbirth," Broughton said.

With Zade asleep in his arms Friday afternoon, Arlin sat on his wife's bed at St. Boniface Hospital and the couple filled in the details on their wild day.

They thought they'd better tell the story first-hand: The birth slowed the morning commute on 59 and dozens of motorists saw the ambulance, the fire truck and two cars pull suddenly over to the side of the road just north of the floodway.

The couple made it 20 kilometres on their own first.

"We made it to Grande Pointe, which is about halfway when she started having constant contractions and yelling at me to pull over. She was going to have the baby right then," Arlin said.

"Delivering a baby in a vehicle is a father's worst nightmare. I thought I was going to have to do it," the dad said.

He pulled over, dialed 911 and, prompted by the dispatcher, peered over to check to see if the baby was crowning.

Added Beth, "And (earlier) I'd joked, 'Make sure you wear shoes with laces in case you have to deliver the baby. It was almost true. "

In the end, Arlin didn't have to use his shoelaces to tie off the umbilical cord.

Ten minutes later, with Beth in full labour, an ambulance and a fire truck arrived. About the same time, the couple's birth coach caught up with them.

Paramedics loaded Beth into the back of the bus and led a convoy of four vehicles, with Arlin, a Winnipeg fire truck and the birth coach all headed north again.

They made it a couple of kilometres when the ambulance pulled over.

The fire truck pulled up and blocked traffic on the curb lane, funnelling the morning rush hour into a single lane of commuter traffic.

Arlin didn't even have a chance to get out of his car before the baby was born.

"I didn't know what was going on. I could see some action in the back and then the fireman said "Congratulations."

Beth said, "The contractions were just too strong and I kept thinking, This is silly. This isn't going to happen here. I'm not going to deliver this baby here. But I did. Five minutes later."

"We had the baby on the side of the road while everybody stared at us," she said. "It happened so quick."

"A few friends drove by and they didn't realize it was us. Now they do. We put it on Facebook," she said.

The couple said they're thankful there were no complications and grateful for the paramedics on the scene.

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 4, 2012 B1

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Updated on Saturday, February 4, 2012 at 8:50 AM CST: Adds photo, video

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