South King Fire & Rescue firefighters and other local first responders first met Kylie Kuo April 6 at her grandmother’s house in Federal Way when they helped deliver the precocious baby intent on making an early arrival into the world.
They met the now 7-month-old and her family for a second time at a — planned — special reception Monday at SKFR station 62 in Federal Way, where Kylie and her unconventional birth were once again celebrated and the infant received cuddles, two firefighter-themed onesies and the chance to meet her namesake, King County Medic One paramedic Kyle Waterman.
Capt. Jeff Bellinghausen, SKFR Community Affairs Office, said Monday’s gathering was special for everyone.
“It’s not uncommon for firefighters to go to an active labor call, but it is more uncommon to go to an active birth,” he said, adding in the approximately 30 active labor calls SKFR responded to in the last year, only two that he could find resulted in births, and rarely do first responders get invited to meet the baby afterward.
And, while it is frequently suggested, having the baby named after one of the first responders almost never happens, Bellinghausen joked.
Diane Kuo, Kylie’s mother, said her daughter’s delivery was unplanned. She said she stayed late at her office that evening to wrap things up before going on maternity leave the next day. When she left for her mother’s home, where the family was staying while their house in Burien was under construction, Kuo said she started having cramps. When she arrived around 8:30, she was having contractions that were five minutes apart. Not entirely convinced she was going to have the baby that night, Kuo said she updated her husband, Paul, who was putting their son Nathan down to bed at the time, and they agreed she should take a shower and then they would reassess the situation. When her water broke in the shower, at around 9:15, Kuo knew their baby was well on her way, but even before Paul Kuo could get her bag in the car for the trip to the hospital, Kuo said she had another contraction and felt the baby’s head. That’s when they called 911.
“So this was like super-fast,” Diane Kuo said.
Paul Kuo agreed.
“It was, ‘I feel kind of funny,’ to ‘I’m having a baby’ in about 20 minutes,” he said.
SKFR firefighters and American Medical Response ambulance emergency medical technicians arrived five minutes later.
AMR EMT Kristi Michaels said in this type of situation, she always makes her presence known so the new mother feels less awkward or vulnerable being surrounded by men, but this was the first time she took the lead. Michaels, who primarily responds out of Auburn now, said she had barely gotten her gloves on and situated in front of Kuo, with SKFR firefighter and EMT Randy White positioned near Kuo’s head, when the baby arrived following a few pushes by her mother.
Michaels said she has been at about 10 live births during her 17 years as an EMT, and not every delivery has gone so smoothly. She said, in this case, however, everything went perfectly, and the family remained calm throughout.
“This was the first one where I felt like everything fell into place at the right time,” she said.
It was also a first for White, who had responded to several labor calls before that day but never where a baby was born. But, he said, he frequently has to make quick decisions in stressful situations as part of his job, and, as an EMT, he receives 34 hours of training a year just on child birth.
“So it was more of just doing what I was taught and hope everything went well, which it did,” White said.
It went so well, Waterman said his presence was just a formality. He said paramedics respond to live births as a precaution in case “things go sideways” or there are complications that require his level of training, which is more extensive than that of EMTs. In this case, the delivery went smoothly, and White, Michaels and her partner had things well in hand, that he did nothing more than watch them prepare mom and child for a trip to the hospital and make a joke to Paul Kuo.
“It’s a really cool thing to be a part of, and when you walk in and everybody’s smiling and the baby’s crying, that’s the best possible scenario,” Waterman said.
His presence did give Kylie her first name, however. Diane Kuo said she and her husband could not agree on a name before their daughter’s birth, but after her delivery, they ran through the names of all the first responders there and decided upon Kylie as the name Kristina — for Michaels — was already taken by another family member.
“I like it. I like it. I won,” he joked at the reception.