PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — When U.S. Army Sgt. Kyle Patterson left his wife, Ashley, and his home in Presque Isle for his tour of duty in Afghanistan last year, the 25-year-old knew that there were certain events, such as Thanksgiving, Christmas and the Fourth of July, that he would miss.
What he did not realize at the time, however, was that his wife was pregnant with their first child. And when he found out, he resolved to do whatever he could to make sure he didn’t miss out on the baby’s birth. With a bit of effort, the assistance of technology and the kindness of the staff of The Aroostook Medical Center, it all became possible, and last week, the now three-member family offered a gift of thanks.
“We really owe so much to TAMC for what they did for us.” Ashley Patterson said Wednesday. “I so appreciate how they took on the challenge of making sure that Kyle was there for Gracelyn’s birth, and so did he.”
The sergeant was working with the Army’s Military Police while in Afghanistan. Ashley Patterson, 25, said that she approached the hospital about the possibility of using Internet technology so that her husband could be “present” in the delivery room with her when she gave birth to their daughter.
“At first, they had a bit of of a deer-in-the-headlights look,” she recalled. “But then they just jumped on board and were so supportive. They really wanted to make it happen.”
Officials at TAMC got to work thinking of how it could be done, eventually deciding to use an iPad and Skype to transmit the baby’s delivery.
“Gracelyn was breech, so I ended up needing a Cesarean-section delivery,” said Patterson. “They admitted me to the hospital, and when I got into the operating room on March 29, they had everything all set up.”
Kyle Patterson was linked in by Skype from Afghanistan, anxiously awaiting his daughter’s birth. Dr. Joyce Hebert and Dr. Rachel Swartz led the team who delivered Gracelyn, Patterson said, and nurses and other medical staff in the room introduced themselves to him. Dr. Richard Debowsky, the anesthesiologist, even took photos when not performing his duties.
Joann Pelkey, CRNA and manager of anesthesia services, said that there “wasn’t a dry eye in the operating room.”
“To witness a father serving our country in Afghanistan see his daughter being born, and tell his wife how much he loves them and misses them was touching beyond words,” she said.
Gracelyn Patterson weighed in at 6 pounds 15 ounces and measured 20¼ inches.
“Kyle was just over the moon,” Ashley Patterson said Wednesday. “He told me before the birth that he was not going to cry, but he did. He sure did.”
Kyle Patterson returned from deployment last month, and on June 26 the entire family went to TAMC to thank those who made it possible for him to view Gracelyn’s birth.
The family presented TAMC staff with a U.S. flag that Sgt. Patterson had flown in their honor at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.
“I cannot say enough about the team here,” he said. “Ashley and I will be forever grateful. And when Gracelyn is old enough, we’ll certainly tell her about how daddy was able to be there, from half a world away, when she came into the world, thanks to the folks here at TAMC.”
The hospital staff made plans to fly the flag on the flagpole at its A.R. Gould Memorial Hospital in honor of all troops and veterans on Thursday. The flag will then be placed on permanent display in a prominent location inside the hospital.