New Jersey couple Abdel Elkarhat and Soukaina Nekhlaoui expected to have a life-changing event come Jan. 7 when their second child was due.
Little did they know their little bundle of joy would arrive nearly two weeks early.
Had they known that, Elkarhat probably would not have driven his wife through New York’s Holland Tunnel, which is exactly where Nekhlaoui delivered the couple’s newborn son early Wednesday morning.
“I was driving from home to Brooklyn to make it to the hospital and inside the Holland Tunnel my wife just started screaming, ‘The baby is coming out. The baby is coming out,” Elkarhat told ABCNews.com today. “I was panicked. I didn’t know what to do. Should I stop and call 911 or just keep driving and moving?”
Elkarhat, who also had his mother-in-law and 16-month-old daughter in the car, chose to keep driving, even as he saw the crown of his son’s head emerge. He drove to the end of the tunnel, stopped the car and ran to the Port Authority’s security booth where he screamed for help.
“I told him I needed help and that my wife was having a baby,” Elkarhat, of Lido, N.J., said.
The on-duty Port Authority officer called for back up and within minutes, according to Elkarhat, George McCann, a senior tunnel and bridge agent, and his partner that day, Jean Bernard, arrived to help.
“The man was frantic,” McCann, a 34-year Port Authority veteran, said of Elkarhat. “He was running around the car yelling and we were trying to calm him down. I assigned Norm Williams [the security booth agent] to just handle the father.”
McCann, himself a father of two, got to work helping Nekhlaoui, who by now had pulled her newborn son from between her legs up to her chest. McCann’s first step was to make sure the baby was alive – he was – and then he got to work administering oxygen and using a suction device to clear out the baby’s nose and mouth.
McCann, who is not an EMT, did all of this using only a baby birth kit carried by Port Authority agents and the skills he learned at a Crash Injury Management training class run by the American Red Cross.
“Most of the time I deal with tragedies, like 9-11 and shootings and bus crashes,” he said. “This was such a beautiful thing, to see a baby being born and the mother and baby doing well. It’s a great thing that transpired for me.”
Two ambulances arrived just moments later, around 7 a.m., and EMTs cut the umbilical cord and put the baby in one ambulance and the mother and her mother and child in the other. Elkarhat was supposed to drive to the hospital in that ambulance, with his wife, but in the chaos, he got left behind.
“We calmed him down and he was hugging us and thanking us and shaking our hands,” McCann recalled. “After we knew he was calm we allowed him to drive himself.”
Elkarhat, Nekhlaoui and their 6-pound, 9-oz., surprise bundle of joy, Nassim Mohammed Elkarhat, were reunited at New York Downtown Hospital, where both baby and mother are doing well. They expect to be discharged from the hospital – where they were later visited by McCann – tomorrow and hope their return drive home is much easier.
“I think I’m done, yes, for now,” Elkarhat said at the idea having another child after all this excitement. “Thank God for my Christmas gift and my New Year’s gift. I’m happy with that.”