November 6, 2023
Dispatch in Action
Nora Acuna had always desired to find a career that would bring both meaning and fulfillment to her life, but she hadn’t expected to help bring babies into the world. All that changed on June 30, 2023, at 5:33 p.m., when Baby Riley Burke decided she couldn’t wait to make her arrival.1
After a year working as an EMD/EFD for the Seminole County Fire Department (SCFD), Florida (USA), Acuna answered stressed father Brendan Burke’s call from his vehicle in his driveway. As the couple had been preparing for the birth of their second daughter, they hadn’t planned on her entrance into their now stationary car that was no match for the speed of this delivery. Plans to reach the hospital were no longer possible as Brendan anxiously dialed 911. Acuna’s voice brought a calm reassurance to Brendan as he reported he could already see the baby’s head emerging.
“I was a bit nervous as this was my first childbirth call,” Acuna said. “But I was confident, and I stayed calm to help Brendan.” Though Acuna had never used the Childbirth-Delivery Protocol instructions outside of EMD training, she knew she could trust each instruction through the imminent birth. Relying heavily on each word, Brendan was able to keep calm, communicate what he observed, and, amazingly, deliver his infant daughter without complications.
Only about six minutes into the call, grateful relief spread as Brendan confirmed the baby had delivered and was breathing beautifully. The mother, Victoria, could be heard assuring Brendan that he did an awesome job helping. As paramedics arrived on the scene, Acuna disconnected and smiled to her co-workers, expressing her amazement to be part of such a special event in this family’s life.
“Nora just walked us through the process very calmly and everything worked out great with the birth of our second daughter,” Brendan said. “We are so thankful to Nora and the first responders who helped us during this unexpected due date.”2
About two months later, Acuna was able to meet the Burke family: Brendan, Victoria, and their two children. With wonder, Acuna held tiny baby Riley, which was an unexpected privilege. Acuna was so excited to meet the new arrival that she gifted her a wooden puzzle of her name. It felt natural for Acuna to snuggle the new baby while asking Victoria about baby Riley's sleep and growth since her surprise entrance that evening. SCFD Firefighter Jeffrey Garrett also joined the happy reunion and sang Riley “Happy Birthday” to celebrate her joyful arrival.3
Happy endings like these are a highlight for Acuna, who loves to be the calm source of help during stressful situations. Handling a world of emergencies is no easy feat, but Acuna has found a way to turn off her emotions to be present and remain in control. She reminds herself of her personal dispatch mantra: “This is not your emergency. It is theirs. Stay calm and strong.” It hasn’t taken long for her to recognize that this is what she wants to do every day.
Acuna was awarded her first Stork Club Award, which signifies entrance into an honorary club of Emergency Dispatchers with special delivery stories to tell. For Acuna, it means far more than a plaque proudly displayed on her living room shelf: “The whole thing was amazing. I'm honored to have been a part of the Burke family’s story, and I’m happy I could help during a stressful time.”
1. Langston J. “Special Delivery: 911 Dispatcher Receives ‘Stork Award’ & Reunites with Baby She Helped Deliver.” ClickOrlando.com. 2023; Aug. 13. https://www.clickorlando.com/news/local/2023/08/14/seminole-county-911-dispatcher-earns-stork-award-after-helping-family-deliver-baby/ (accessed Sept. 1, 2023).
2. See note 1.
3. See note 1.