At 12:30 pm on December 27, the Sunday after Christmas, Pamela Akukuma realized that labor had started. She wasn’t worried. As parents of a 22-month old, Ms. Akukuma and her husband had already experienced the long wait which labor generally entails. They figured she’d have several hours before they needed to make the trip to Jacobi Medical Center, where their second baby was to be born.
But baby had other plans. Ms. Akukuma’s labor quickly progressed, and by 3:00 pm, her contractions were coming on fast. The Akukuma’s jumped in the car and headed to Jacobi. However on Pelham Parkway, right in front of the hospital, Ms. Akukuma’s water broke, and the couple realized they were out of time.
Mr. Akukuma parked and dashed into the hospital, calling out for help. His cry was heard by Andrea O’Neill, a Larchmont resident and the nursing administrator in charge of the hospital that day. Ms. O’Neill ran out to the car and found Ms. Akukuma in the back seat ready to deliver. Ms. O’Neill quickly fired out directions to onlookers for backup help and supplies, removed her coat, and turned her full attention to the mother.
With soothing words and a calm, steady hand, Ms. O’Neill delivered the new baby. She gently rubbed his back to encourage his first breath and was rewarded with a lusty newborn cry. She then wrapped the baby inside her coat, helped the mother out of the car and onto a waiting stretcher, and placed the baby with her. Staff then rushed mother and baby to Jacobi’s Labor and Delivery Unit, where both were examined and found to be in excellent condition.
The next day, sitting comfortably in her bed on the Post Partum Unit with baby Richard in her arms, Ms. Akukuma reflected, “I never imagined the baby would come so quickly, and when I realized I would not make it into the hospital, I was very afraid. If it were not for Andrea’s calming assistance and expert care, I would not have been able to handle the situation.”
“In my many years in nursing,” commented AMs. O’Neill, “this experience was certainly the most unusual! The opportunity to help Pamela bring a new little life into the world was also one of the nicest Christmas presents I have ever had.”
Barbara J. Barbara DeIorio is Director of Public Relations & Marketing at Jacobi Medical Center.