August 9, 2013
By Audrey Fraizer
There was good reason Waldo County (Maine) Regional Communications Center (WCRCC) Director Owen Smith might have had trouble finding dispatcher Stephanie Lunt when he arrived to work on Aug. 21, 2012.
“She was on cloud nine,” he said. “Stephanie was flying high when I got in.”
Lunt received the call every dispatcher looks forward to—with some trepidation—and it was a first for the center going on 12 years of operations.
“The ambulance usually arrives before we get our chance,” Smith said. “The paramedics end up stealing our thunder.”
The call, of course, was one requiring Protocol F: Childbirth–Delivery, the Pre-Arrival Instructions (PAIs) for delivering a baby. Lunt, who works third shift, was one of two dispatchers at the center when the call from the anxious father came in at 3:17 a.m.
From the tone of the caller’s voice, Lunt had a really good idea about what was happening on the other end of the line. Soon-to-be-mom, Stacey Sprague, was pacing. Soon-to-be-dad, Derek Johnston, was not anxious to get the show on the road, unless it meant being in the car on the road leading to the hospital.
“He sounded scared,” she said. “He said there was a lot of blood. They live 25 minutes from their hospital. She [Stacey] didn’t think they would be able to make it.”
Lunt instructed the caller to persuade Stacey to stop pacing, get towels, and have her lie down so that he could check the delivery status. Johnston saw the infant’s head.
“That really made him nervous,” Lunt said. “Uh oh, I thought, we’re doing this whether the ambulance gets there in the next few minutes or not.”
Lunt helped Sprague through her contractions, while keeping Johnston focused and calm during the silent moments in between. Twelve minutes later, mom was holding her nearly six-pound Abigaille, and dad was thanking Lunt for her fabulous help at a time he thought a doctor would be present. Unity Ambulance was at their door.
Lunt was ecstatic.
“I’m a mom myself and know there can be complications,” she said. “But even if there had been, I had the instructions right in front of me. That made me feel much more comfortable.”
The call was followed by a combination of relief and jubilation, Lunt said.
“It was one of those ‘I can’t believe I did this’ moments,” she said. “It was a mini high-five celebration all around. It’s quite a feeling to have a call like this.”
The center’s first full delivery did not go unnoticed. Smith asked the couple to stop by with their family. Once he received their OK, he, again with their permission, invited a reporter from the Bangor Daily.
Five weeks later, Waldo Regional County welcomed the family and local reporter into the center. Lunt held the baby and the couple accepted a post-baby shower gift that included a pull-apart diaper figurine and an audio of Johnston’s phone call.
While Johnston was admittedly nervous during the call, in retrospect he said the experience might be worth repeating on one condition.
WCRCC is the county’s communication and dispatch center for all law, fire, and EMS agencies within the county. It also acts as the county’s E-9-1-1 PSAP. WCRCC came on-line Aug. 15, 2001, with the merger of the dispatching facilities and personnel from the City of Belfast and the County of Waldo Sheriff’s Office.