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Durango 911 dispatcher assists in successful births of two babies

Childbirth calls are rare, but dispatcher Jennifer Rivera got two in one night
Dispatcher Jennifer Rivera, who answers 911 calls at the Durango/La Plata Communications Center, helped successfully deliver two babies over the phone on Feb. 3. (Courtesy of city of Durango)

As soon as the phone line became live, Durango/La Plata County 911 Dispatcher Jennifer Rivera knew the situation was going to require her care and attention. A man’s voice was on the other end of the line, but Rivera could hear a woman in distress in the background.

It was 10:20 p.m. Feb. 3, the Saturday at the end of Snowdown. The week had been filled by an excessive number of wellness checks and other alcohol-related calls.

But this call was different. And unexpected.

The man told her that his pregnant partner’s water had broken.

“I wasn’t expecting it to be a birthing call,” Rivera said. “But once you know what’s going on, you just start. We have questions that we follow. You just get into it.”

Relying on her training as well as her own experience as a mother, Rivera walked the couple through the delivery process. The father could see the baby’s head, and two minutes after the call began – before first responders could arrive at the home – the baby was born.

Rivera has been a dispatcher for about a year, and has never taken a childbirth call before. Neither has her supervisor, Kati Fox, the operations manager at the dispatch center, who has worked in the field for 15 years.

Childbirth calls are exceedingly rare. Most people end up in the hospital before emergency services are needed. According to a news release from the city of Durango, the dispatch center received more than 5,500 medical calls last year. Only nine calls were regarding childbirth, and in every case, the family made it to the hospital or emergency personnel responded in-person before the baby arrived.

So it was quite a surprise when, 1½ hours later, she answered another call from a father on the way to Mercy Hospital. As the couple reached the bottom of Farmington Hill, they had to pull over.

For the second time that night, Rivera walked the callers through the childbirth process.

“I was just shocked. I’ve been told that birthing calls were really rare,” she said. “To get one that night, and then maybe an hour later to get the second call ... I was in a bit of disbelief.”

It was a relief, she said, to hear both babies crying on the other end of the line.

Dispatchers often witness tragedy on the other end of the telephone. So a birth, much less two, is a welcome change of pace.

Kati Fox, operations manager for the Durango/La Plata County Communications Center, said 911 calls that end with the delivery of a healthy baby are “pretty joyful,” especially compared to many of the other calls that 911 dispatchers take. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

“Those are pretty joyful 911 calls when things work out as hoped,” Fox said.

Although Rivera had said in training that she didn’t want to take a birthing call, Fox said she followed protocol exactly and was integral in the healthy births.

“I think it was just exciting to be a part of something like that,” Rivera said. “… I’m just glad that everything turned out OK for both families.”


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