MACHIASPORT, Maine — An emergency dispatcher for Washington County will be recognized this spring for coolly and calmly providing help over the phone to aid in the delivery of a baby.
Although the eventful night recently had a happy ending, it was frightening at times for Christina Bridges, who gave birth to her second child, and for her mother, Beth Hawkins, who placed the 911 call.
The dispatcher, Jessy Timpe, will be presented with an award by the National Emergency Numbers Association, which recognizes emergency dispatchers who help deliver a baby. She is expected to be presented the award in April at the Maine National Emergency Numbers Association conference in Portland.
Timpe, who declined to be interviewed for this article, had never done a “full delivery” prior to an ambulance arrival, according to Joshua Rolfe, supervisor of the Washington County Regional Communications Center.
“She did an excellent job,” Rolfe said Thursday. “She maintained her composure and followed the protocols exactly the way she was trained.”
Timpe joined the staff as a part-time employee in July 2013 and became a full-time dispatcher in September. She previously worked as an emergency medical technician for Downeast EMS.
All 911 dispatchers in Maine are required to perform emergency medical dispatching for medical calls, noted Rolfe. The dispatchers are certified to perform emergency medical dispatching and use predefined protocols to help guide them during various medical emergencies.
According to Rolfe, Timpe confided in him after the emergency birth and said she was “a little nervous” during the call, “but you wouldn’t be able to tell by her performance.”
Five emergency dispatchers in Maine were recognized with a Stork award for helping deliver a baby by 911 call in 2013, according to Chad Labree, president of the state chapter of the National Emergency Numbers Association. Seven were recognized in 2012.
Bridges woke up at about 11 p.m. Jan. 25, because her water broke, she recalled, but she initially did not experience labor contractions. After calling Down East Community Hospital in Machias, she agreed to go to the hospital within no more than three hours. But she soon began experiencing labor pains. She waited until they were stronger and more frequent before waking up her husband, Chris, at about 2 a.m. By then, her contractions were seven minutes apart. The couple got ready to leave, woke up their son and drove to her parents’ home nearby to drop him off.
“Then, when I stood up to get out of the car … things kind of just moved really quick at that point,” Bridges said Thursday. She experienced more labor pains and went in her parents’ house to use the bathroom. She told her mother to call for an ambulance “because I could feel [the baby’s] head.”
Bridges made it to her mother’s bedroom, and Hawkins called 911. Timpe answered.
“I told her my daughter had just come in through the door and was about to have her baby,” Hawkins said.
“I got a lot of help,” the grandmother added. Timpe immediately guided her through a few questions to determine Bridges’ condition and at what stage the childbirth was.
Timpe then walked Hawkins through the delivery “step by step,” she said.
“Thank goodness she was there,” she said. “She was good reassurance on the other end of the phone.”
After the child was born, Hawkins transferred the phone to her other daughter, Karissa Hawkins, a certified nursing assistant, and Timpe assisted her with the process of tying off the umbilical cord and other steps.
“She definitely knew what she was doing,” said Beth Hawkins. “It was good to have someone on the line that you could depend on.”
The 911 call was received at 2:10 a.m., and the baby was born five minutes later. Addison, who was born almost three weeks early, was a healthy 7 pounds, 13 ounces and 37 inches long.
As thankful as they were to have Timpe’s help, both the Bridges and the Hawkins said the experience was unnerving.
“Everybody gets very excited to hear the story, but it was really terrifying,” said Bridges. “It was scary. It wasn’t something you want to happen.” The participants in the drama “were pretty horrified for a while,” she recalled.
“It was really kind of scary,” agreed Hawkins.
Bridges and her child were taken to the hospital by ambulance but were discharged the following day.
Last week, Hawkins and Bridges took the baby with them to meet Timpe at the communications center.
The Bridges couple, who grew up in Machiasport, have been together for 13 years and married for seven. They also have a 6-year-old son, Blake.
Emergency dispatchers have 37 medical protocols at their fingertips, explained Rolfe. The protocols provide step-by-step procedures to guide the dispatchers, including questions and directions. They are available in a flip chart that is kept handy, and Washington County also has a computer-based version.
Emergency dispatchers undergo about three weeks of required training at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy and in-house or on-the-job training, according to Rolfe.