Skillman, NJ – Christine Schleppy was having a baby, and she wanted an epidural. Unfortunately, no epidurals were available in the make-shift medical shelter that she gave birth in.
Schleppy, 34, was just 35 weeks pregnant when Sandy came to call. She started having contractions on Monday, near the height of the storm. When they became more intense and frequent, her husband called 911. The ambulance arrived to take the couple to the nearest hospital. They never made it.
“You hope you can get to the hospital,” David Schleppy, 38, said of the experience. “We knew there were many trees down and roads getting closed left and right.”
While the couple’s home was not in an evacuation zone, the roads were still flooded with water and debris. Eventually, the ambulance got stuck in the mud, and the laboring woman and her husband were transferred to a fire ambulance. The fire ambulance SUV made its way to Hackensack University Medical Center’s Mobile Satellite Emergency Department shelter – and very long title for a make-shift medical center in a church’s gymnasium.
“It was definitely stressful,” David said.
The shelter in Hillsborough, was one of several mobile units set up by the hospital to service those in low-lying areas. Although one of the mobile units was equipped with epidural medicine, the other units weren’t.
Schleppy, who had previously given birth to three children with the luxury of epidural medicine, experienced her first natural birth at the height of the storm.
“She wasn’t happy about it but ultimately the main concern was to have a healthy baby,” David Schleppy noted about his wife’s situation. A healthy baby was indeed born at 11 pm on Monday. Liam Alexander Schleppy – weighing in at 5 pounds, 2 ounces – was later transported with his parents to Somerset Hospital. Parents and baby are reportedly doing well.
Dr. Joseph Feldman, Chairman of Emergency Medicine at Hackensack University Medical Center, said that it was good that county officials requested the mobile units “be deployed in areas hit hardest by Hurricane Irene last year.”
“It was lucky because who knows who would have delivered this woman’s baby if our team was not set up there,” Feldman said.
Little Liam wasn’t the only baby to make his grand entrance into the world during the super-storm. Marianna, born to Vartan and Marina Harutunian on Monday evening, was one of over a dozen babies born that day at New York’s North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset. Marianna’s father was “crossing his fingers, waiting for Wednesday,” hoping for a Halloween baby, but Marianna – who was already five days late – came during the storm.
While Marianna’s parents live only a couple miles from the hospital, “downed trees and fierce winds made the trip an ordeal.”
“Whew, it was a little bit of a roller-coaster ride,” said Harutunian.
Dr. Jessica Jacob, a private practice obstetrictian, delivered three babies that night. “It’s still very scary,” observed Jacob about delivering during such severely inclement weather.
While there are theories that assert that women are more likely to be pushed into labor by sudden drops in pressure, Jacob doesn’t put much stock in those theories. Even though the “storm logged a near-record low barometric pressure Monday afternoon, bottoming at 27.76 inches,” Jacob notes, “There was no baby boom going on last night.”
Readers: How would you feel about having a baby in the midst of a storm like Sandy?