GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — If you’re frustrated by super-cautious, snow-wary drivers, imagine you’re stuck behind them while trying to get your wife to the hospital while she is in labor.
“I don’t think we’re going to make it,” Dannielle Gill recalled declaring several times.
She and her husband, Ryan Gill, were trying to get from their Caledonia-area home to Corewell Health Butterworth Hospital on Saturday, Dec. 17. The day before, Grand Rapids experienced a single-day record snowfall: 7.4 inches.
“My husband did pass vehicles on 84th Street,” said Danielle Gill, who was laboring with the couple’s fourth child. “Once we got to (US-)131, we felt relieved a bit. Then on 131, he battled slower vehicles and the road conditions.”
She said when her water broke around 7:40 p.m., they immediately called family to come and stay with their other three boys. She said her contractions were four to five minutes apart when they headed to the hospital around 9 p.m.
“With previous pregnancies, I left for the hospital when contractions were like that and was able to labor for hours at the hospital,” she explained.
Not this time. By the time they hit Hall Street on US-131, the contractions were “pretty much on top of each other,” she said.
“At that point, I told Ryan it was going to happen. The pressure was overwhelming and my intuition took over,” she remembered.
That’s when her husband called 911.
“Yes, I’m on 131 headed north downtown,” Ryan Gill can be heard telling the dispatcher on a recording of the call. “My wife’s in labor, and she’s starting to crown.”
When the dispatcher asked if he was pulling over, he responded, “Uh, I can be.”
It was at that point that little Hayes Gill — or at least his head — made his debut.
“His head is out,” Dannielle Gill can be heard saying in the background of the 911 call.
Recalling that moment days later, Dannielle Gill said that despite her not pushing, the baby’s head appeared.
“I think as soon as his head was out, I started to panic and kept saying, ‘What do I do?'” she said. “I know I told Ryan, ‘In the next contraction, he’s coming out.'”
And come out he did.
“I pushed and pulled him out while Ryan was stopping the vehicle,” Danielle Gill said. “Ryan had a towel in the van that he grabbed and rushed to my side of the vehicle while on the call still with 911.”
Dannielle Gill said her panic continued when she at first could not hear the baby crying. But 49 seconds into the 911 call, in the background, you can hear the sweet sound of a newborn baby exercising his lungs.
“He’s crying,” Ryan Gill told the dispatcher. “He’s crying. That’s good.”
While he continued with 911, Dannielle Gill somehow managed to call her neighbor, who happens to be a labor and delivery nurse.
“I just pushed the baby out on the road,” Dannielle Gill can be heard telling her neighbor. What do I do?”
The neighbor calmed and guided Dannielle Gill while also contacting her labor and delivery colleagues at Butterworth so they could prepare.
Meanwhile, Ryan Gill started for the hospital again.
“I’m driving to the hospital,” he told the medical dispatcher.
“You’re driving to the hospital currently?” the dispatcher repeated, likely a bit confused since an ambulance was on its way.
“Well,” said Ryan Gill, before chuckling. “I’m sorry.”
Incredibly composed amid chaos, he paused to gather his thoughts.
“The baby came out,” he told the ambulance dispatcher. “The baby is crying. We have it in a towel, a clean towel. We’re less than 10 minutes away.”
Dispatch canceled the ambulance. The 911 call lasted just four minutes and four seconds.
“I just pulled him out and put him up on my chest,” Dannielle Gill recalled the passenger seat birth.
Ryan Gill said his wife was already holding baby Hayes by the time he ran around to the passenger side with a towel.
At Butterworth Hospital, Allie Gonzalez was among the labor and delivery nurses eagerly awaiting the Gills’ arrival, ready to spring into action.
“One of our other nurses is neighbors with this patient and she was on the phone,” Gonzalez said. “So we kind of knew she was on her way and we were thinking it had been taking a while and were worried about the storm. Then we got another phone call that she was delivering on the side of the road.”
Gonzalez said her unit always worries when road conditions are poor.
“That’s always one of our priorities, one of our biggest concerns,” she said. “Will the woman be able to get to us in time? Are they going to wait too long at home?”
The Gills thought they had plenty of time given their previous delivery experiences.
Gonzalez said the hospital has a room set aside near the labor and delivery entrance for imminent births.
“We do a lot of testing and skill drills to make sure we’re ready if they’re delivering when they get there,” explained Gonzalez, who has been a labor and delivery nurse with Corewell Health (formerly Spectrum Health) for six years. “The weekend this happened, we had four to five deliveries where they were delivering on their way through the door or in triage.”
Hayes Gill was the only one who couldn’t wait for the hospital. All of the births went smoothly.
Gonzalez said moms give birth en route to the hospital about a dozen times a year. She urged parents to give themselves extra time in treacherous conditions but offered this advice if you don’t make it:
“The number one thing is, is the baby still attached?” she said. “And if so, keeping an eye on the umbilical cord.”
Gonzalez said the Gills did a great job and Ryan Gill was able to help cut the cord when they arrived at the hospital.
Once nurses had made sure mom and baby were stable, Gonzalez asked Ryan Gill a question.
“I said to the dad, ‘How’s the car? Because obviously a lot of things just happened.’ With no second guessing, he said, ‘I don’t care. I can get a new seat. As long as they’re OK, I’m OK,'” Gonzalez recalled.
“Sometimes we’ll give dad wipes or towels and say, ‘If you need to go clean the car quick, we understand.’ Like, we want to provide them with that too because that can be a mess later on. The way he spit out, ‘I don’t care. I’ll buy a new seat.’ I was like, ‘That’s the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard.'”