NEAS paramedics Kim Weatherburn and Gary Price with baby Orla, mum Elizabeth and dad Patrick

One year on – baby Orla marks her first birthday with ambulance crew reunion

Family reunite with crew who came to their aid

After making a dramatic entrance into the world by being delivered by her father on the bathroom floor, Orla Howe was able to celebrate her first birthday by meeting the paramedic crew who came to her aid.

It was the height of the pandemic when Orla’s mum Elizabeth went into labour on 30 May last year.

Thinking it was just the early stages of labour, Elizabeth managed her pain at home with support from husband Patrick. But when the pain quickly grew worse, they found themselves having to call 999 with Stacey Bath, a midwife from the Queen Elizabeth, talking Patrick through the delivery.

Orla was born a healthy 7lb 3oz on the bathroom floor, just minutes before the arrival of paramedic Gary Price and Kim Weatherburn, who was a student paramedic at the time but has since qualified.

Elizabeth and Patrick have already been able to thank Stacey, but, due to covid restrictions have been unable to meet up with Gary and Kim until now.

“You prepare yourself for every eventuality and intervention that you might require but we certainly hadn’t prepared to have her at home!” said Elizabeth, who has recently returned to work as a secondary school languages teacher.

“That morning I had woken up with a few cramps so I thought something was starting to happen, but I wasn’t in much pain, it was uncomfortable but tolerable.                                              

“We didn’t want to go to hospital too early only to get sent away; we knew it would be a long process and didn’t want to feel like we were wasting anyone’s time, especially in light of covid. But by about 1.45pm, the pain suddenly ramped up. I had got to advanced labour without realising.”

“We soon realised that it was more serious than we thought,” said Patrick, a tennis coach. “I had packed the car earlier in the day and tried to get her in but every time she got down the stairs, a contraction would stop her in her tracks and she just couldn’t, so I rang Stacey and she said to phone an ambulance.

“Elizabeth was starting to feel the head, so Stacey told me to listen carefully because the ambulance wasn’t going to get there before the baby and I was going to have to deliver her myself. I feel nervous thinking about it now but at the time I didn’t have time to think about it, I was just focusing on what Stacey was telling me to do. Liz was the real hero, I was just there to support and encourage her and keep her calm.

“When Orla’s head emerged, she was facing up. She opened her little eyes and, with another push, she slid out into my arms at 3.42pm.

“It was probably only a matter of minutes later that we heard the sirens. You feel much safer knowing they are there and that everything would be alright. They’re so relaxed, it immediately makes you relax too and they were so caring.”

Gary and Kim did all the necessary checks, cut Orla’s umbilical cord and cleaned mum and baby up before setting off to the hospital. But, unbeknown to them the message had got around the street and their neighbours were all standing outside waiting for them as they were wheeled out to the ambulance, cheering and clapping.

“I think it gave the clap for carers more meaning as they were literally clapping for them,” added Patrick. “I hope having a memory like that will have helped them through what must have been a really rough year for them.”

For Kim and Gary, this incident will always stick in her memory.

“Most shifts consist of us meeting people on one of the worst, most troubling days of their lives but we got to meet this family on one of the best days of their lives,” said Kim.

“Elizabeth did absolutely amazing delivering baby Orla, and Patrick was so supportive to mum.

“What made the job even more special was seeing the family’s whole street clapping as we brought Elizabeth and Orla out the house and onto the ambulance, I may have had a little lump in my throat as well.

“Now I am a qualified paramedic, I have taken away so much from this job and learnt so much, which I have put towards my practice now in similar jobs. I feel so privileged that I was able to share this day with the family and it will be a day I remember for the rest of my career.”

Gary, who has worked for the service for over 12 years, added: “I have attended several births in my time working for the ambulance service and they are all special occasions, however the birth of baby Orla really stands out thanks to the massive standing ovation from the neighbours. It gave us all a lift from what was and still is happening in the world.

“It was lovely seeing Orla again and they are a lovely family. Me and Kim are really pleased to have been part of their lives.”

Speaking after the reunion, Elizabeth said: “It was really lovely to see them again and thank them in person. It was long overdue but was actually really nice to be able to do it around Orla’s birthday.

“I think having had contact with the NHS within the past year during the pandemic has made me feel especially lucky to have that service there. We feel eternally grateful to them for coming to our rescue; I’m sure you don’t go into their job to be remembered or for recognition, but they were there at such a pivotal point our lives and will always be remembered by us.”

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Copyright 2011 North East Ambulance Service Trust

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