March 29, 2022
Dispatch in Action
Grandfather was on the phone to 911. Mom was in active labor. Amanda Marden was across town answering a call that happens maybe once during an EMD’s career—if luck’s on your line—at an emergency communication center.
Marden was nearing the end of her second year with the Scarborough Police Department, Maine, (USA), when she received the call of a lifetime. Imminent delivery. The baby was crowning, and the grandfather needed help fast to welcome the arrival of his grandson. He was calm, considering the situation at hand, and the mother was understandably surprised at the unexpected speed of a baby ready to come into the world.
Murmuring in the background alerted Marden to others in the room with Mom. She didn’t listen for long. She locked into the ProQA® childbirth and delivery PAIs full speed ahead and focused all her attention on making sure the birth progressed as it should.
“You kind of put yourself in a bubble and hyperfocus on what’s going on,” she said.
The strict attention paid off with the sweetest sound Marden was elated to hear. “It was awesome to hear the baby cry,” she said.
Marden held the connection until paramedics arrived. The baby’s father sent Marden a photo of the baby boy and posted their gratitude on the Scarborough Police Department Facebook page. “We couldn’t have done this without you.” That was the only accolade Marden needed. Praise is secondary to the help they provide, she said.
Marden has a degree in psychology and interned with the Scarborough Police Department. She wanted to be a police officer until she sat in to observe dispatch. She was drawn to the challenges of multitasking, never knowing what the next call will bring, and working with a team to coordinate response. Although most emergency calls are related to unfortunate situations, a successful baby delivery prior to paramedic arrival is a sure way to lift an EMD’s spirits.
“I’m ready for anything but definitely did not expect a call like this so early in my career,” Marden said. “It was amazing.”
Marden is among the rare recipients.
For the higher percentage of EMDs, a childbirth and delivery call that produces a baby before the ambulance arrives is a wait that never ends.
Although it’s tough to find statistics regarding the number of pre-hospital births, the Academy’s Data Center reports 1,610 babies born with no complications (24-C-4) over the past three years, out of a total of 76,043 cases from 195 participating agencies. That equates to about 2.12% of the total call volume for Protocol 24: Pregnancy/Childbirth/Miscarriage.1
A study of U.K. pre-hospital births from the Northeast Ambulance Service (NEAS) over a one-year period showed the rate of babies born before arrival (BBA) at the hospital in the United Kingdom was 0.5%. The rate of babies BBA in Australia and Ireland was similar to the United Kingdom, whereas in the United States the rate was higher at 1.4%.2
So, if the percentages are correct, an EMD in the U.S. has a slight edge.
Of course, Marden finds the silver lining in every call she takes. “I’m always grateful to help someone,” she said. “There’s confidence in the ability to do good.”
Marden has been nominated to receive the Stork Award from the Maine Emergency Medical Services Bureau and is a lifetime member of the IAED Stork Club.
1 IAED Data Center. International Academies of Emergency Dispatch. 2021; Dec. 8 https://www.emergencydispatch.org/the-science/data-center (accessed Dec. 10, 2021).
2 McClelland G, Burrow E, McAdam H. “Babies born in the pre-hospital setting attended by ambulance clinicians in the northeast of England.” British Paramedic Journal. 2019; Dec. 1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7783920/ (accessed Dec. 9, 2021).