Miramar Police Officer Natasha Richardson has had suspects who need to be tasered, and at numerous points in her 11-year police career she's felt her life might be in danger. But Richardson's scariest moment as a cop happened Thursday afternoon, she says, when a nine-months-pregnant mother started moaning in the main office at Fairway Elementary School.
Richardson and the school's heath technician quickly phoned an ambulance, which arrived in a few short minutes.
But by then, Richardson -- who is assigned to Fairway as a school resource officer -- had already guided the mother through giving birth.
"It was like 1-2-3," Richardson said. "Water broke, head came out, baby came out."
The lightning-fast birth happened in the school's clinic room, which is where staffers relocated the mother after noticing her repeated moans as she clutched her midsection. The mother was there to pick up her 7-year-old son, who attends Fairway.
"Let's go in the clinic and lay you down," Fairway's health tech, Dyonte Robinson, said they told her.
At that moment, Richardson and Robinson were focused on simply making the mother feel comfortable -- fire-rescue workers would be the ones to handle the tricky stuff, they thought.
Then the mom's water broke.
Richardson was suddenly in doctor mode, and Robinson was thrust into the role of nurse (even though a school health tech is technically not a nurse). Richardson asked for gloves, and Robinson provided them. Ditto for blankets.
The task was complicated by a language barrier: The mother speaks limited English. An interpreter who speaks Haitian Creole was rushed in, and she delivered the all-important message:
With Richardson cradling the infant girl's head, a single push was all it took. Richardson was immediately concerned that the baby wasn't crying, and the ambulance still hadn't arrived.
Richardson, who has given birth once herself to a now-teenage daughter, thought they should clear the mucus from the infant's nostrils and chest. She couldn't remember what the appropriate medical device was, so she asked Robinson for the "squishy thing," meaning a suction hose or bulb syringe.
The school had neither. It was time to improvise.
Richardson tilted the infant and patted her back. She then used her finger to clear the airway of the baby's mouth.
Soon after, fire-rescue workers arrived and cut the umbilical cord. The baby finally let out a tiny cry and was whisked to Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood with her mother, whose name was not released.
Everything seemed fine, but Richardson went home that night still worried.
Would the infant, born at a tiny 4 pounds, be alright? In the heat of the moment, had Richardson done enough?
"I was like a restless soul," Richardson said. "I was cooking, I was cleaning ... I couldn't sit still."
When she finally went to sleep, she awoke two hours later.
A sense of relief finally came Friday morning, when Richardson visited the hospital and saw that both mother and daughter were doing great. (Through the hospital, the mother declined to be interviewed).
"She was very surprised to see me, she was very happy," Richardson said. "She gave me a big hug."
Copyright 2013 - The Miami Herald
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