Teamwork helps woman get to hospital during blizzard to deliver baby

The woman was transported by ambulance from Forest City, with trucks and snow plows driving ahead to clear a path


By Mary Pieper
Globe Gazette

FOREST CITY, Iowa — Getting a Forest City woman to MercyOne North Iowa Medical Center in Mason City during Sunday's blizzard so she could give birth took an enormous group effort.

The woman was transported by ambulance from Forest City, with trucks and snow plows driving ahead to clear a path.

The trip to Mercy, which normally takes 45 minutes, took almost two and a half hours, according to driver Clair Olson with the Forest City Ambulance Service.

He said in his more than 15 years in ambulance service, Sunday's road conditions were the worst he's ever experienced.

Fortunately, "There were a lot of people involved to make it (the trip) as smooth as possible," he said.

In the end the woman made it to the hospital and gave birth to a healthy baby boy, so "it was a good outcome," Olson said. "That's our goal, that everyone turns out being healthy."

The mother of the baby declined a request for an interview from the Globe Gazette.

It all started early Sunday morning when Mike O'Rourke, superintendent of the Forest City Street Department, was sanding the streets and encountered a man trying to shovel out an SUV stuck in the middle of road.

He said the man told him, "You have to help me. My daughter is in labor."

O'Rourke and another street department employee were able to get the SUV unstuck, but O'Rourke said he told the driver, "There's no way you are going to Mason City in that vehicle," and advised him to call 911 for an ambulance.

O'Rourke continued to sand the streets. Fifteen minutes later, he got a call from Dale Rayhons, paramedic supervisor for the city of Forest City, telling him the pregnant woman's water just broke and asking him to provide a snowplow assist for the ambulance.

O'Rourke went south on U.S. Highway 69 in the lead, followed by the ambulance with a crew of four and the woman in labor inside, a Winnebago County road grader and the SUV driven by the patient's father.

The goal was to make it to the Miller turnoff, where Iowa Department of Transportation vehicles were to take over as the ambulance escort.

O'Rourke said his truck busted through so many drifts that his windshield wipers froze.

"It was awful," he said.

When the vehicles got close to the Miller turnoff, the ambulance got stuck in a drift. Marcus Jensen, the road grader driver, was able to pull it out.

Olson said Jake Bruncheson, the crew member who rode in the front passenger seat of the ambulance, acted as "a second set of eyes upfront" to watch for blowing snow.

EMT Mike Williams and paramedic Jason Sturgal were in back with the patient.

"There were times I could barely see out of the windshield," Olson said.

The return trip took even longer than the journey to Mason City.

Olson said the ambulance crew had to stop at the Clear Lake Station on the way home because the road conditions were still so bad.

"They (the firefighters) were very gracious," he said.

The crew would have had to spend the night there if a westbound DOT plow hadn't been available to drive in front of the ambulance on U.S. Highway 18, according to Olson.

They finally made it back to Forest City at 9:30 p.m.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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