Rebecca and Ron Walton of Albrightsville expressed their gratitude to EMT Kate McGinley and paramedic Robert Bernabucci the night their son Andrew was born in an ambulance on the way to St. Luke's Hospital in Allentown, but they wanted to do more.
With new baby Andrew and his big sister Brianna in tow, the Waltons paid a visit to McGinley and Bernabucci recently at the Lehighton Ambulance Association's Penn Forest Station, where their ambulance unit is staged, and where the pair were beginning a shift.
The Waltons came bearing gifts, but it seemed like the best gift was a very healthy, very pink bundle of joy, that the emergency medical professionals took turns holding.
Joni Gestl, administrator of the Lehighton Ambulance Association as well as a paramedic, used the opportunity to present McGinley and Bernabucci with a stork pin, which recognizes them for delivering a baby, which she pinned on the collars of their uniforms.
Gestl says there is no protocol for the pins, it is simply a gesture to commend someone who has delivered a baby. With the Waltons requesting to meet with McGinley and Bernabucci, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to give them a pat on the back and a token of a job well done.
With the closing of the maternity ward at Blue Mountain Health System's Gnaden Huetten campus last year, ambulance transports for maternity patients are up, and Gestl says there is always the chance of having to deliver a baby on the way.
"We really don't look forward to delivering the child on the way to the hospital, as we prefer to get them to a hospital and then transfer mom and baby if necessary," says Gestl. "This time, the baby came quicker than we thought.
"We are all very grateful that Mom and baby are OK," adds Gestl. "It is not always the case, and this is why the paramedics and EMTs are vigilant. So many things can go wrong, and it is our job to do our best when 911 dispatches us on a daily basis. We just never know what is going to happen."
McGinley has been an EMT for six years, and is certified through the American Physicians Association, and has also worked as a 911 dispatcher for Carbon County for the past three years. Andrew was her first delivery.
Bernabucci has worked as a paramedic for 10 years in the Lehigh Valley and southern Poconos, and has been with Lehighton Ambulance for two years. He says he transports pregnant women to the hospital about once a month.
Andrew was his third delivery.
"My first time was scary, but my training helped me," says Bernabucci. "Since then, each time I was more confident and not as worried.
"Each day and every call is unexpected. you just have be prepared for anything."