Couple’s son born on side of I-70; dispatcher credited
GYPSUM — For Jen and Patrick MacKeage, life really is what happens as they were making other plans.
Jen is a third-grade teacher and therefore a planner. Despite their best planning efforts, Kieran James MacKeage was born on Friday beside the westbound lane of Interstate 70 at mile marker 131.
“Is that going to be the place of birth on his birth certificate?” Patrick wisecracked.
Kieran James MacKeage is not just another roadside attraction.
Kieran was due to enter the world on Saturday. However, during an ultrasound Monday they found Kieran was a breech baby.
They planned their Caesarean section for Tuesday, a day Glenwood Canyon was not scheduled to be closed for rock work.
With everything planned to perfection, they decided to relax for the weekend.
Friday morning, Jen started having contractions, but not too severe and not at regular intervals. They didn’t get upset. They’d been through it four years ago with their young son Sean, so she and Patrick thought they knew what to expect while expecting.
“Suddenly, everything started going really fast,” Jen said.
When she says “everything” and “fast,” she means it.
They ran to the car, took Sean next door to a neighbor’s house and headed toward Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs. They made it about seven miles to the eastern end of Glenwood Canyon and made the decision to stop.
“Actually, Kieran made the decision. He started coming out,” Jen said.
They called Valley View, and were told under no uncertain terms to hang up and dial 911. Vail Public Safety Communications supervisor Tina Mojzer picked up the phone.
“My wife is pregnant. It’s a breech delivery. We were trying to make it to Valley View, but I don’t think we’re going to make it,” Patrick told Mojzer.
This was Mojzer’s first childbirth that led to an actual birth. The others made it to the hospital, she said.
“A lot of factors made this work,” Jen said.
If they‘d made it a little further down the road, they would have been out of cell phone range.
The paramedics were still a few minutes away when Patrick calmly explained that the baby’s legs were out, but not the head.
“This is happening right now, before help arrives,” Mojzer recalled thinking.
Follow the instructions
It turns out there is an instruction manual for this sort of thing — the International Academies of Emergency Dispatch protocol.
As they got Mojzer on the line, Patrick sprinted around to the passenger’s side of the car, and punched the speaker button on the phone. He’d need both hands for this one.
Even though it wasn’t without complications, Mojzer talked him through it.
“Tina knew exactly what to do,” Jen said.
“I’m happy to have had the opportunity to be able to make such a positive impact on a situation that could have been very dangerous for both the mother and the baby,” Mojzer said. “I’m genuinely glad that I was there to help.”
Jackie Lohman, a registered nurse with the Valley View Family Birth Center, said Mojzer’s instructions and Patrick’s ability to follow them likely saved the baby’s life.
“I was impressed. He did a great job. He held it together and did a great job maintaining his composure. He listened to my instructions, did what he needed to do,” Mojzer said.
They talked their way through everything, Patrick relaying information, and Mojzer providing directions.
“The protocols really do address all those situations, but you don’t expect to have to address them all at once,” Mojzer said.
As Jen said, they were on their way to the operating room because they were under the impression that there was no other way for Kieran to come into the world.
“In our minds we thought, ‘We have to be in an operating room.’ That’s all we’d been hearing. Obviously, Kieran had a different idea,” Jen said.
The threats to Kieran’s young life came in a hurry.
First, Kieran’s head got stuck, so Jen said she had to get out of the car and squat down.
Kieran’s head finally appeared, but the umbilical cord was wrapped three times around his neck.
They got that handled, but Kieran wasn’t breathing. Mojzer told them what to do, and it worked. In moments Kieran was taking his first deep breaths of Rocky Mountain air.
“We didn’t even have time to get blankets or anything else out of the back for the car,” Jen said.
Paramedics from Eagle County Paramedic Services told them over the phone to hold Kieran skin to skin. First Patrick did, and then Jen did, keeping their new son warm until the paramedics arrived moments later.
Patrick said later that he wasn’t sure both his wife and child would live through it, but mother and son are fine.
“He was actually very calm through it all,” Jen said.
Afterward, the ambulance ride to Valley View seemed like a stroll.
“They didn’t even have to do lights and sirens,” Jen said.
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