Dispatcher meets baby born on side of highway

Jake and Chrissy VanDyke pose with their son, Orion, and Ottawa County dispatcher Mary Allman, left, on Tuesday at Central Dispatch in West Olive. Allman, a Spring Lake resident, received the Ottawa County Central Dispatch Stork Award for walking Jake through the delivery of his son after he was forced to park on the side of I-96 in Crockery Township on July 23.

WEST OLIVE — When Jake VanDyke called 911 and told the dispatcher his wife was going to have a baby before they could make it to the hospital, two thoughts went through Mary Allman’s head.

One was that the Ottawa County Central Dispatch employee needed to do everything she could to make sure the parents experienced a safe delivery. The other was that she hoped she was the one who walked them through the process.

“When we get these calls, it’s like the best of the best,” Allman said Tuesday.

Allman was grinning from ear to ear as she got to meet 2-week-old Orion James VanDyke, along with parents Jake and Chrissy VanDyke of Grand Haven Township.

“You don’t know how much it means to us as dispatchers,” Allman said. “We never know the outcome” – unless we read about it in the newspaper. “It’s not very often that people come in and we get to meet them,” added the Spring Lake resident.

Doctors planned to induce Chrissy on July 25 because she had gestational diabetes, but little Orion was ready to roll two days sooner.

At a doctor’s appointment in the morning, Chrissy learned that she was already dilated to a 4. The young couple made arrangements for their two daughters to go with family. By 6 p.m., contractions were hard and fast, and the couple headed out the door minutes later to head to a Muskegon hospital.

While Jake was driving north on M-231, Chrissy told him that they weren’t going to make it.

“I was hesitant to call when we were on 231, but when she said she had to push, I dialed 911,” Jake said.

Allman said they were closing in on a shift change when she took the call. She yelled out information as she talked to Jake so that the other dispatchers could start the various emergency services moving.

In the meantime, Allman walked Jake – after he pulled over on the side of I-96 in Crockery Township – through the steps of timing the contractions, checking the baby, making sure the umbilical was clamped, and keeping both the baby and mother warm.

“When he came out and I could hear him cry, I was like, ‘Thank you,’” Allman said. “You don’t want anything bad happening on the side of the highway.”

Allman recently received Central Dispatch’s Stork Award from Deputy Director Donna Kempf-Barnes.

“Mary was given the Stork Award for following protocol to assist in a birth,” Kempf-Barnes said. “If a successful birth happens before first responders arrive, then you qualify for the award.”

That doesn’t happen very often, Kempf-Barnes said. This is only the 14th such award given since the county’s dispatch center was created in 1991, or about one every other year.

This is the second Stork Award for Allman. She received one in 2014 for a similar highway birth.

Allman started working as a dispatcher in 1986, took some time off to raise her children and then joined Ottawa County Central Dispatch again about 12 years ago.

“He’s got a free pass to call us up for the rest of his life,” Allman said as she gazed down at the sleeping baby. “He’s so adorable.”

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