Fort Campbell, KY – Early one September morning, a Fort Campbell family’s newest addition decided she was ready to make her debut and was born in her family’s car in a Blanchfield Army Community Hospital (BACH) parking lot.
A few hours prior, mom Mercedes Simons, who was eight and a half months pregnant, said she began feeling pain while at her family’s off-post home.
“I had been feeling contractions throughout the day when I was at home, but I thought they were Braxton Hicks contractions because that’s what I was used to experiencing,” said Mercedes.
While her husband was out, Mercedes said her contractions became very intense.
“I don’t think I was even paying attention to how far apart they were but now thinking back they were probably like a minute apart at that point,” she said.
That’s when Mercedes realized she was in labor and when her husband returned she told him they needed to go to the hospital.
“It was crazy. I did not know how serious it was whenever I came back from getting my wife some Tylenol,” said Sgt. Keenan Simons, who works as a wheeled vehicle mechanic on the post.
They grabbed their five year-old son Micah and set off in their car for the 20-minute journey to the Army hospital. Mercedes described the ride as chaotic, “I was just screaming and Keenan was trying to comfort me and get us to the hospital as quickly as possible.”
About the time that Mercedes said her pain was the most intense, she reached down and could feel the top of the baby’s head beginning to crown. Despite feeling cramped in the passenger seat, Mercedes said she instinctively maneuvered her body and slid off the pants she was wearing.
“When I looked over and saw she had taken her pants off, I was like, okay – I need to get there like right now because I know my wife, and she wouldn’t do something like that,” Keenan said.
Mercedes said she felt her baby was ready to be born, even though they were still 10 minutes out from the hospital.
Mercedes said she reclined the passenger seat back landing practically in the lap of their son, who was strapped in his car seat behind her.
Mercedes added that initially, he protested against the intrusion, but then he began stroking her head and started to comfort her like a good labor support person would do.
“He was saying, ‘It’s going to be okay mommy; it’s going to be okay,’” recalled Mercedes.
“It felt like forever going down Tiny Town Road. I had never heard my wife scream like that. I was thinking that we still had time because when we went to the hospital the day before they said she wasn’t ready yet,” said Keenan.
When Keenan arrived at the hospital and pulled up at the first entrance he saw – the C Entrance. An entrance for patients seeking access to the outpatient clinics and only accessible during the day. Mercedes said that was when her water broke and the baby’s head popped out. And due to the amount of pain she was in, she wasn’t able to help her husband with directions to the emergency center entrance.
“Whenever I pulled up to that entrance, I realized it wasn’t the ER,” said Keenan, who had been deployed most of his wife’s pregnancy and didn’t know his way around the hospital.
After seeing his daughter’s head coming out of his wife’s body, Keenan said he knew he needed to get them help and so out of concern for their safety, he began to yell for help.
“I didn’t think anybody would come,” Keenan said. “I thought it was just me, her, Micah and the baby.”
But as fate would have it, a fellow Soldier heard his call and ran to the car.
Combat Medic Specialist Spc. John McDaniel, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division – “Blue Spaders” said he was waiting in the parking lot for a Soldier from his unit to be released from the emergency room when he saw a car speed past and come to a stop outside the C entrance. He then heard a man yell for help and immediately ran to assist.
“The dad unlocked the car door, and when I opened it, I saw that the mom was giving birth in the car,” said McDaniel. “The husband was huddled over the wife and when I looked down all I saw was the baby’s head was crowning.”
McDaniel said his training kicked in and he instantly assessed the situation using his medic experience.
“The mother was conscious, and she was breathing well. I looked at the baby, and the baby was head down,” said McDaniel, who learned the basics of labor during his advanced initial training when he joined the Army two years ago.
“During our [emergency medical technician] phase we learned about birth, [and] what’s wrong with a baby, like breech pregnancies,” McDaniel said. “And so, I noticed when I first came on the scene that the baby was coming out naturally, normally.”
Knowing that there was no time to leave Keenan and Mercedes to run for help, McDaniel said he helped Keenan better position Mercedes as the baby continued to come out.
“The baby came out really naturally. The dad is the one who caught her,” said McDaniel, who stayed with Keenan and reassured him that his family would be okay. “I helped the mother and the dad the best I could and then I ran to the ER for help.”
BACH Registered Nurse Pamela Paquet just finished discharging a patient when McDaniel entered the hospital and called for help. She and fellow nurse Jennifer Chappell ran out the door after McDaniel.
“I thought the patient was in the ER parking lot,” said Paquet.
But when she saw McDaniel continue running past the ER parking lot, she yelled to Chappell to get a wheelchair and picked up her pace as she followed the Soldier around the building.
“We made it to the car where dad was in the driver seat, holding the baby over the mother with the umbilical cord still attached,” she added.
Paquet said she told Keenan to lower the child to avoid reverse transfusion of blood back into the placenta. She and McDaniel then leaned further into the car to check Mercedes for any lacerations, childbirth tearing and heavy bleeding that can occur during labor.
“I carry my own clamps for this reason and have worn more amniotic fluid than I would like to admit,” said Paquet, who has had to assist in a number of precipitous deliveries over the years.
As Chappell checked on Mercedes, Paquet examined the baby and listened for her cry.
The first cries are important because they can indicate if they baby’s lungs are functioning outside the womb.
While examining the baby, Paquet said she turned the baby over so that she was in a face-down position and asked Keenan for the shirt off his back. Warm from Keenan’s body heat, she used the shirt to stimulate the baby’s back until the child started to cry more.
Chappell then helped Mercedes into the wheelchair, to quickly get mom to Labor and Delivery for further care. Paquet followed along and continued to work on the baby to help her clear her lungs.
She said she administered tactile stimulation until the baby let out a loud healthy wail indicating good lung function and that the baby could breathe well on her own.
“When I really, really heard her, we were running down the hallway towards Labor and Delivery,” said Mercedes. “I just heard the baby screaming. … I was like, thank God – she’s fine. That’s when I knew we were good.”
With mom and baby safely in the hospital, Keenan and McDaniel had a brief moment to talk outside.
“I was able to talk to the dad for a minute after he got the mom escorted away. He just kept saying thank you, thank you, and hugged me” said McDaniel.
“In that moment, I realized how much this meant to them, and I was just glad that I was able to be there and help them make sure everything was OK,” McDaniel said.
Keenan agreed and said he was in shock at how quickly everything happened. He said he felt very grateful he could be there for his family and that everything worked out OK, giving thanks to those who helped.
“I’m just happy that the baby is healthy and that my wife was strong to do that with no medication. I’m just really proud of her,” he said.