Eudora baby delivered under Tongie water tower
When Kim and Pete Feyerabend bought their Chrysler Stow 'n' Go van last year, they knew it would be handy.
But until last week, the Eudora couple didn't imagine just how handy it would be.
On the evening of July 3, three days before her due date, Kim went into labor. The couple and their 4-year-old daughter Ashleigh were in Basehor celebrating an early Fourth of July at the home of Pete's parents, Bob and Betty Feyerabend.
Kim had visited her doctor earlier that day. But during the afternoon and evening she had sporadic contractions, none of which were strong. Her first child had been born after a 4 1/2-hour labor, and Kim and Pete didn't expect this delivery to be much different.
Even if the baby did decide to come that evening -- sometime between the family dinner and fireworks -- they knew Basehor was a mere 25-minute drive from Lawrence Memorial Hospital, where she planned to deliver.
But the best of plans can go awry. And in this case, they did.
At 8 p.m. Kim's water broke. Almost immediately, her contractions accelerated to a minute apart. They were strong. Kim and Pete both knew these contractions were for real.
They left Ashleigh with her grandparents and headed west on U.S. Highway 24-40. By the time they neared Tonganoxie, they knew the birth was imminent. Pete dialed 911.
Then he pulled off at Tonganoxie's Laming Road -- and swung into the first driveway on the right, thinking the water tower landmark would make it easy for an ambulance to find them.
By coincidence, the driveway into which he turned was that of the Leavenworth County Annex, which houses the county's emergency medical unit. But Pete hadn't known that.
"We had no idea," Kim said Monday.
Although they were in the right place, the ambulance was out on another call.
"About a minute later the EMS showed up, the volunteers, without the ambulance," Kim said.
At the time, Kim was still in the front passenger seat.
Pete knew there was no place to have the baby, so he rushed to lower the van's back seats, which flatten flush to the floor.
"I think I had them down in about half a minute," Pete said. "I was just kind of throwing things out of there pretty quick."
He helped Kim into the back of the van and sat at her head as emergency workers swirled around.
"I was more or less just helping her hold her head up ... because in the back of the van we didn't have any pillows," Pete said.
And within minutes, the couple's second daughter was born.
"Goodness gracious, obviously it was pretty exciting there for a while," Pete said. "Thank goodness the EMTs or EMS, they were there so quick. That's what made it not quite so critical. They seemed to calm it down pretty well for us."
A quick 20 minutes
Tonganoxie Fire Chief Dave Bennett said he and other Tonganoxie firefighters had just returned from a call to check on another pregnant woman, one who didn't have her baby at that time.
"In fact, we were just getting off another pregnancy call and we hadn't even made it back to the station when we got this call," Bennett said.
Bennett responded with five firefighters and EMS official Patrick Morey.
"Contractions were a minute apart when we got there," Bennett said. "And about 20 minutes later we had a baby girl named Sydney Rose."
For Pete's parents, the evening was anxious as well.
"They got in the car and left," Betty Feyerabend said. "Then, 10 minutes later the phone's ringing, he says Mom we're in Tonganoxie, we're not going to make it to the hospital."
Betty asked where they were.
"He said, 'We're under the blue water tower,'" Betty said.
Thinking they might need their help, Betty and Bob left Ashleigh with relatives and headed to Tonganoxie.
"There was all kinds of help," Betty said, adding that she and her husband decided to stay out of the way. "We sat on the back of our van."
But they soon learned everything was OK, and they even caught a fleeting glimpse of their new -- and perfectly healthy -- granddaughter bundled in a towel as she was carried to the ambulance to be taken to the hospital with Kim, who also was doing well, and Pete.
That's when Bennett, and everyone else who helped with the delivery, also could breathe a little easier.
"You would think with all the experience I've had with my own children, six of my own, I wouldn't be a big sissy, but I am," Bennett said.
He expressed gratitude for the emergency workers, particularly two of them.
"Thank God for Pat Morey, though, and Jamie McCutchen," Bennett said.
Bennett said a nurse practitioner also had stopped to help, but he didn't know her name.
Meant to be
Kim said she wasn't alarmed by the fact that her child was going to be born without her doctor present.
"I just knew that they were the ones that had to deliver her," Kim said. "There was no one else there and I knew the ambulance (even if it arrived soon) wasn't going to get me to the hospital in time."
Kim hadn't taken birthing classes.
"They coached me," she said of the emergency workers. "They told me to take deep breaths and try to stay calm."
And soon, Sydney, who weighed 7 pounds 9 ounces and was 19 inches long, was born. But Kim said she realized that even if the ambulance had been at the annex when they arrived, it's likely her baby still would have been born not at a hospital, but "in transit," as Sydney's birth certificate reads.
Mother and daughter spent two nights at Lawrence Memorial.
"I was very happy," Kim said. "Everything went good and she's doing good."