During Hurricane Sandy’s high winds and heavy rain, a New Jersey woman gave birth to a baby boy in a hospital’s make-shift medical shelter to aid residents immobilized by flooding.
Christine Schleppy, 34, was only 35 weeks into her pregnancy when she started having contractions on Monday near the height of the storm. When they became more frequent around 6 p.m., her husband called 911 and an ambulance arrived.
“You hope you can get to the hospital,” David Schleppy, 38, said. “We knew there were many trees down and roads getting closed left and right.”
Their home in Skillman, N.J., was not in an evacuation zone, but the emergency medical technicians struggled to drive the Schleppy family to a hospital in Princeton amid flooding, debris and road closures. Ultimately, the ambulance became stuck in the mud, so the parents-to-be were switched to the fire ambulance that was leading the way.
Despite having five children between the two of them, it was an anxiety-ridden experience for the couple.
“It was definitely stressful,” he said.
The fire department’s SUV finally made its way to Hackensack University Medical Center’s Mobile Satellite Emergency Department shelter in Hillsborough. It was one of several mobile units deployed by the hospital to low-lying areas.
Schleppy had previously given birth to three children with epidural medicine, but this was her first natural birth.
A spokeswoman for Hackensack University Medical Center said the hospital had one mobile unit that was an operating room with epidural medicine, but the other units did not have epidural medicine.
“She wasn’t happy about it but ultimately the main concern was to have a healthy baby,” David Schleppy said about his wife.
Due to high winds, the doctor and staff in the mobile unit had set up shelter in the gymnasium of a church next door.
Dr. Herman Morchel and the MSED team finally delivered Liam Alexander Schleppy, 5 pounds, 2 ounces, at 11 p.m. on Monday in Hillsborough.
They have since been transported to Somerset Hospital and are doing well, David said.
Hackensack University Medical Center Chairman of Emergency Medicine Dr. Joseph Feldman said it was a good thing that county officials requested the mobile units be deployed in areas hit hardest by Hurricane Irene last year.
“It was lucky because who knows who would have delivered this woman’s baby if our team was not set up there,” Feldman said.