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Ottawa County dispatchers meet baby delivered on roadside

By Audra Gamble/The Holland Sentinel • May 21, 2019 at 11:00 AM

WEST OLIVE — A year after a harrowing entrance into this world, 1-year-old Joey Schuitema got to meet the 911 dispatcher who helped his father deliver him on the side of the road.

Joey, born May 15, 2018, was delivered in the family’s pickup truck on the side of the road off 16th Street in Holland on the way to Holland Hospital.

With big sister CeCe in the back seat, parents Kristen and Paul were on the way from their home in Caledonia when Kristen couldn’t wait anymore. She told Paul to pull over, and Paul called 911.

“Kristen yelled from upstairs, ‘We’ve got to go,’” Paul said. “I didn’t even have a shirt on, so I threw on some clothes, and we hit the road going 90 miles an hour. We got off the highway and Kristen said, ‘Pull over now.’

“By the time I got around the truck and opened the door, the head was out and (Joey) was out in seconds.”

On the other end of the 911 call was Ottawa County dispatcher Mary Allman, who knew exactly what to do. She kept Paul calm and made sure Joey and Kristen were OK until an ambulance could arrive.

Now, a year later, the Schuitema family made a special birthday stop at Central Dispatch in West Olive on May 17 to thank Allman in person.

“My first thought was (Paul) was calling for himself, and then he said the head was out, and I thought, ‘What head?’” Allman said of the 911 call. “It’s absolutely the best call you can take as a dispatcher — it’s so happy and exciting.”

Allman said Paul was very calm, telling her within 10 seconds of calling 911 that Joey had been born, announcing the baby was a boy.

The Schuitema family has a recording of the 911 call, laughing now at hearing Allman congratulating the family on their new addition.

“There were school kids waiting for the bus nearby while it was happening,” Paul said, laughing.

Kristen was in labor for about an hour and 45 minutes, thinking she had plenty of time to get to the hospital before her son arrived.

Ottawa County Central Dispatch Director Tim Smith said the birth was so quick that Allman technically didn’t qualify for being on the “Stork Board,” a plaque in the hallway of the building showing which dispatchers helped deliver a baby before a police officer or firefighter could arrive at the scene. According to Allman and Smith, Paul did all the work.

“We heard Mary say, ‘Don’t you drop that baby, it’ll be slippery!’” Smith said.

Paul said Allman instructed him to tie the umbilical cord off with a piece of plastic twine he had in the front seat of the truck, then big sister CeCe donated her blanket to keep her new little brother warm until the ambulance could arrive.

“The whole time, I was thinking we’re going to make it,” Paul said. “There’s no way we’re going to be those people that have a baby on the side of the road. It happened in an instant.”

Allman said she’s helped to deliver babies before over 911 calls, but none quite as sudden as with Joey.

“I’ve done a few of these, but it was a little bit faster than I’m used to,” she said. “I was just going by memory at that point. He’s such a cutie.”

Born three weeks early, Joey was 7 pounds, 8 ounces and 20 inches long. Mom and baby were healthy despite Joey’s dramatic entrance. Now, the happy 1-year-old is sporting two new bottom teeth and a head of blonde hair.

As for the truck, Paul said he took it to get detailed the next day.

Later in the summer last year, the dispatchers sent OCCDA swag to the Schuitema family — a small pink T-shirt for CeCe and a tiny blue onesie for Joey, both adorned with the 911 logo.

The Schuitema siblings showed off their OCCDA gear as Joey was passed around the 911 call center, getting lots of love from the dispatchers who helped bring him into the world.

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