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St. Croix County dispatcher, Baldwin EMS help woman deliver child in vehicle

Clayton, Wis., resident Janelle Peterson poses with her newborn son and Baldwin EMS Chief Tom Boyer. Photo courtesy of Western Wisconsin Health Center

Janelle Peterson had a wish she posted on Facebook.

“Let the countdown begin,” the 11:22 a.m., Wednesday, June 21, post reads. “Just wait at least till midnight is my hope!”

The post was in reference to the child she’d been carrying for months — a child who apparently had no interest in his mother’s timeline.

Peterson, of Clayton, gave birth to baby Thomas-John William LaPage at 2:05 p.m.

Location?

The side of the road in the 1000 block of County Road D in the town of Baldwin.

Guiding her through the process was Shelley Lansing, a dispatcher for St. Croix County. She said she got a 911 call from Peterson who told her she was in labor and driving herself to the hospital.

Lansing, an eight-year veteran dispatcher, said it didn’t take long to determine Peterson needed to pull her car over.

“I didn’t feel she had time,” Lansing said.

Complicating matters was the fact that Peterson’s 8-year-old son was in the vehicle with her. In spite of the fact that the experience was an intense one for the boy, “he did a good job,” Lansing said, adding that Peterson managed to simultaneously handle her birth while keeping her older son James calm.

Using a flow chart available to dispatchers that helps guide them through specific emergencies, Lansing led Peterson through the process. Then the contractions began.

She encouraged Peterson along and helped control her breathing. Knowing Peterson had given birth in the past — an experience that can mean faster subsequent birthing — the dispatcher then prepared her for self-delivery, “which is not something any female expects to do,” Lansing, a Woodville resident, said.

Things kicked into high gear as the contractions got closer.

“The next thing we knew we had a baby being delivered,” Lansing said.

Little TJ, as he’s already known, was partially born when Baldwin EMS first responders Tom Boyer and Joe Meyer arrived to complete the process. A St. Croix County sheriff’s deputy also responded.

Lansing’s boss, St. Croix County Emergency Communications Manager Terry Andersen, said dispatchers are trained to stay calm during stressful incidents. That, he said, is just how Lansing remained throughout the call.

Andersen said he observed the scene in the dispatch center and was tempted to step in to help. But watching Lansing cupping her eyes in deep concentration as she spoke with Peterson, he knew she had it under control.

“It kind of brought (Peterson’s) anxiety down,” Andersen said, noting that other dispatchers were working the other side of the call, sending out emergency workers to the scene.

Lansing said the experience was “extremely tense,” but rewarding. She said the call represented a textbook example of dispatchers working in concert with emergency workers.

“It was phenomenal how this all came together,” Lansing said, lauding the positive outcome. “To have something as pleasurable as (Wednesday’s call) carries us all, and we all had a stake in it.”

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

(715) 426-1072
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