A Fort Drum firefighter recently had to exchange his thick gloves and high-pressure hose for umbilical clamps and a bulb syringe to deliver a baby on the side of the road in the 9400 area of post housing.
Scott Sanford, one of four firefighters dispatched, was the first emergency medical technician to reach a frightened Brandi Scullion in her home on Few Loop, approximately 10 minutes after her call came in at 4:35 a.m. Sept. 26.
Two paramedics from Fort Drum’s ambulance entered the bathroom and began working alongside Sanford to assess the patient. Contractions, each roughly 45 seconds apart and lasting 30 seconds, meant delivery was imminent, especially since her water had broken.
“She was in a lot of pain,” Sanford said. “Her husband was helping her stay calm, going through breathing techniques with her. Her doula was trying to keep her calm as well.
“There are so many things going on at once,” he added. “And you have Family Members to interact with, too.”
Scullion’s husband, Spc. Robert Scullion, is a cavalry scout with 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team. The couple also has a 2-year-old daughter, Aubrianna.
Paramedics set up their obstetrics kit, staged the oxygen tank and prepared to make a sterile environment while also getting a stretcher ready. A lot of blankets were brought in to not only keep mother and baby warm but also to protect the modesty of the patient, Sanford said.
Through the blurring pain and commotion, Scullion said she smelled smoke on Sanford’s suit, which brought her unusual comfort, because she always believed her late grandfather, who also was a firefighter, was watching over her.
“I believe he sent Mr. Sanford to me to make sure that my little girl was delivered into my arms safely,” she said. “Mr. Sanford has this calming presence about him that made me trust him immediately. He seemed completely confident that he could handle the situation.”
Sanford said things continued to progress well, but in time, Scullion was not pushing.
“We were trying to wait it out, as best as we could,” he recalled.
Eventually, the decision was made to make a run for the hospital. The receiving blankets and sterile equipment were packed up and brought to the ambulance, where the paramedics asked if Sanford could continue with the patient to the hospital.
Scullion’s doula, Rebecca Laaser, whose job is to provide women in active labor with tips and emotional support, joined them.
Sitting at the foot of the stretcher, Sanford said he periodically checked Scullion’s progress. After the ambulance began moving, the baby crowned. The driver pulled over, and Sanford said it was only a few pushes before a healthy, crying baby girl was delivered at 5:06 a.m.
Sanford said they clamped the cord and let the father come in so he could cut the cord in the back of the ambulance. Adaleigh, who was 20 inches long and weighed 6 pounds, 4 ounces, was dried and wrapped up before being presented to her mother.
With more than 20 years of paramedic experience with a commercial ambulance, Sanford had delivered several babies in the past, but never as a firefighter. He said the half-hour whirlwind left him with an adrenaline high for quite some time.
He returned to his ladder truck and went back in service.
“I got to do the fun part, and they got to transport everyone to the hospital,” he said.
Scullion would meet Sanford a second time several weeks later during Fire Prevention Week on post. She said she will never forget the “perfect person” placed in her Family’s path to “deliver my sweet and impatient little girl.”
“Adaleigh’s birthday, (Mr. Sanford’s) face, and the smell of smoke will forever be linked in my mind,” she said. “He was the first face my daughter ever saw, the first person to ever hold her. That's someone who will always be in our hearts.”
Scullion’s husband, who also deployed shortly after their first daughter’s birth, departed on his fourth deployment Oct. 26, one month to the day after Adaleigh’s birth.
“I know how difficult it is to take care of an infant with him gone,” said Scullion, who this time decided to relocate to Pittsburgh to be with Family.
In the 20-plus years that Sanford has worked as a paramedic and EMT, he has participated in at least five deliveries. But he said that’s unusual, since some paramedics can go 30 years without ever delivering one baby.
“It’s nice to actually have something where everything goes right, there are no complications and, best of all, you got to bring a new life into the world,” he said. “I have two kids of my own. To see that (pride) on the parents’ faces was great.”
His boss, Capt. Michael Piekielniak Jr., who has known Sanford for decades, said he was surprised to hear news of the incident, but he was not surprised by how well Sanford had performed his duties.
“Something like this doesn’t happen that often,” Piekielniak said. “I was definitely glad it was one of my guys. I’m always proud when my guys do something like that.”
Scullion is proud, too, and at a loss for words to adequately thank Sanford.
“How do you ‘thank’ someone for helping you through one of the most incredible and important moments of your life?” she said. “We are forever grateful and indebted to him for helping us and bringing our baby safely into the world. He is truly a hero in our eyes.”