October 26, 2021

County 911 dispatcher helps deliver baby over the phone

‘The baby’s coming’

Photos by Michael McCleary/contributing photographer

Martha Boulay, left, and her daughter Cecile Boulay, sit with newborn Lilliana Vega just a few days after a Cortland County dispatcher helped them deliver Cecile’s baby over the phone.

Tim Hinds was nearly midway through his late-night shift Thursday at the 911 dispatch center at the Cortland Public Safety Building and hadn’t received a call.

Hinds usually works from 4 p.m. to midnight, but he filled in for a co-worker that morning. Overnight, he said, the fire dispatcher desk is usually pretty quiet and calls are generally less frequent. The phone finally rang at 1:54 a.m., and on the other end, a woman screamed frantically. Hinds couldn’t make out much at first, but then he heard something about a baby.

“Oh, boy,” he thought. “Here we go.”

At 2:04 a.m. Thursday, Martha Boulay delivered her granddaughter with the help of Hinds over the phone. The call, which had been made from Onondaga Street in Tully, made its way to the Cortland dispatch center and was forwarded to Hinds’ desk. Hinds followed Emergency Medical Dispatch standards, a doctor-approved step-by-step guide to handling emergency medical situations, and the baby was delivered and handed over to paramedics over the course of a 12-minute phone call.

Born 8 pounds, 12 ounces, Lilliana Joanne Vega, and her mother, Celine Boulay, are both home from the hospital and healthy.

“I don’t think I could have done that without him,” Martha Boulay said Monday. “I think you do what you do, but he was definitely instrumental.”

Cortland County emergency dispatcher Tim Hinds sits at his work station Wednesday. He talked Martha and Cecile Boulay through the birth of Cecile’s daughter during a 911 call last week.

Cecile had been up until 1:30 a.m. Thursday before she felt contractions, but she had had difficulty sleeping for a while. She was 10 days before her due date. Cecile was unsettled at night because of her 1-yearold daughter, Francesca; the frequent trips to the bathroom didn’t make it easier.

The contractions she had for Francesca were excruciating, she said, so the pain that night didn’t trigger anything in her mind.

“I have period cramps that are way worse than the contractions were,” Martha said.

Her husband was in Philadelphia for work, so she called her mother and after a 10-minute discussion, they decided not to chance it. Martha Boulay headed to change her clothes in her downstairs apartment so the two could head to the hospital. She went back upstairs to find Cecile on the floor and unable to move.

“Call 911!” Cecile yelled. “The baby’s coming! The baby’s coming!”

When the call reached Hinds’ desk, his co-workers chuckled. Hinds admits he isn’t “a kids person.” His coworkers would give him a hard time, but he couldn’t hand the phone off. Dispatchers are trained on these scenarios and the EMD steps are available on cards and on the computer.

He flipped through the rolodex- like index, then found the protocols for pregnancy situations.

Hinds went down the list: He sent Martha for clean towels, a shoelace to tie the umbilical cord and told her to remove all Celine’s clothes from the waist down. He needed to repeat himself several times clearly and firmly over Martha’s screaming.

Hinds asked her if she could see the head.

Martha “faints at a paper cut,” Celine said, and didn’t want to look down.

The baby shot out before Martha could get a hand on her, and the baby slid across the floor. Martha wrapped her in towels and over the phone Hinds heard the baby cry. Martha went outside to direct the paramedics up the backstairs of the two-story apartment complex.

“Are we going to have a baby tonight?” one of the paramedics asked.

“We have a baby!” Martha yelled. “And you need to get up here right now!”

Hinds heard Martha talking with the paramedic, and after a sign off, he hung up the phone. Sometimes not knowing the aftermath is difficult — he hadn’t known the baby was OK until the next Tuesday — but Hinds tries not to let it affect him.

He asked his supervisor to review the call to see if it went well, but that’s all he remembers telling.

“That’s the last call I’m taking tonight,” he joked and he sat back in his chair, waiting for the next call.

At 4 a.m., he packed up and went home.