STONINGTON — When Elizabeth Lillie woke up on Sept. 22, two weeks before the due date for her second child, the plan was to attend her daughter Francesca's soccer game before returning to Redding, Pa., where she would stay with family and deliver at the hospital where she had had her first child.
The two never made it — but Lillie and her husband, Nicholas, both 32, are preparing to celebrate the three-month anniversary of the happy, healthy birth of the Stonington couple's second child Vincenzo "Enzo" Lillie.
"I was shaken up once I realized I was going into labor. I am so grateful for those emergency responders and everything they did for me that Saturday morning," Lillie said.
Lillie and Enzo visited the Quiambaug Fire Headquarters last month for the first time since the baby's birth, joining responders to say thank you during a special presentation at the November board meeting.
Quiambaug Capt. Theresa Hersh, who was unavailable for the call, said she couldn't have been any more proud of her crew for their efforts. She said she was in the region and was able to hear the transmission over the radio when the call came in.
She still recalls the radio silence, about 20 minutes in all, followed by reports that Mystic River Ambulance was taking two patients to Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London.
"I knew right away that a baby was delivered," she said.
If not for the fast and professional response of the Quiambaug volunteers, Lillie said this week that there is no telling what would have happened with her labor and birth, especially given challenges she faced.
A fast labor
Lillie, a former employee of Mystic Aquarium, and her husband had lived in the area several years ago and loved life in southeastern Connecticut. Due to family circumstances, however, they were forced to move back to Pennsylvania and had only returned to living in the Stonington area in July of this year, with Nicholas taking work as a merchant mariner.
After a successful first childbirth in Redding, Lillie said she and Nicholas had made plans to have the second child there as well. They set those plans when they moved, and two days before Enzo's birth — there were no signs she would go into early labor at that point — Nicholas went out to sea on a work trip.
On the morning of Enzo's birth, Lillie said she and Francesca, 3, were scheduled to go to a morning soccer match before then getting on the road to head to Pennsylvania. Lillie was experiencing unusual back pain, however, and decided to call on her family to come up instead.
"I then called local friends and they came over around 7:20 a.m. Within a few minutes of them getting here, I was in labor," Lillie said.
According to both Lillie and emergency officials, those friends called for help on her behalf, and she was joined at that time by a neighbor, Dr. Bernard Giserman, a New London-based pediatrician, who was able to identify an umbilical-cord problem and assist in the delivery.
They said that, despite having only minimal training in labor and delivery, baby Enzo was in Lillie's arms in the back of a Mystic River ambulance by 8 a.m. and on the way to the hospital with no complications to speak of. He was 20 inches long and weighed 8 pounds, 12 ounces at birth.
A month or so later, Lillie said she made a more formal announcement on Facebook and was contacted by Hersh. She said she immediately volunteered to go meet them at their November meeting.
"They were so helpful and without them, I really don't know what would have happened," Lillie said. "Most of those who helped me were volunteers. I couldn't be more appreciative for what they've done."
Hersh said despite what appeared to be a seamless response, baby deliveries are not a common call for those in the region. In fact, she said she can recall just a handful of these type of responses in her 19 years in emergency services.
"I haven’t had a call where delivery on scene was even a thought," she said. "In the field, deliveries do happen occasionally, but it’s not a common call and most responders would never have the opportunity to experience a field delivery."
She praised the work of the more than dozen volunteers involved, from the dispatcher to volunteer firefighters, medics, L+M personnel and even police.
"This is a field of teamwork, regardless of your patch, rank or certification. In the town of Stonington, I believe we show others the true meaning of 'One Team, One Mission' in serving others," Hersh said.
Lillie said since the experience, she's also learned a lot more about the fire services in town and has made a connection that will convince her to be an active participant at Quiambaug-sponsored events. She added with a chuckle that perhaps someday, Enzo would be able to repay the favor as a member of department.
"We have a special connection with the department, and that's something I intend to keep," she said.