At 1 a.m. Dec. 30 Debbie McClung and Dave Merkle, Baxter Regional Medical Center paramedics, helped Sharla French through a healthy delivery of Brianna Lynn Hall in their ambulance on Lake Norfork Bridge.
Although friend Jessica Bassham had been driving as fast as she dared from Glencoe to Baxter Regional Medical Center, she just wasn't sure they could get all the way to Mountain Home.
French said, "We left immediately after my water broke, but I could feel Brianna moving as we drove through Elizabeth so we called 911." As they pulled into Lakeside Motel near Lake Norfork, First Responder and Fire Department Volunteer Jenny Walker, who recently had completed her RN degree, arrived on the scene just before the ambulance did. As Walker, McClung and Merkle assisted French onto the stretcher, they realized they were faced with a delivery inside the BRMC ambulance.
They knew time was not on their side. Lying back on the stretcher, French focused. "I pushed as hard as I could, especially after each contraction. Debbie was really helping me. She was a great coach," French said.
McClung said, "As I started coaching and helping mom, I positioned myself at the foot of the stretcher in order to prepare for the delivery."
Merkle said, "I started an IV of normal saline to keep her fluids normal because she was losing blood. Jenny and I followed Debbie's orders as she directed the delivery."
McClung said, "As Brianna's tiny body moved forward to rest right into my arms, it was a great moment."
Although few paramedics experience delivering a baby, McClung delivered another child three years ago.
She said, "I used a bulb syringe to clear her nose and mouth, then I began the process of drying and stimulating her. After a few seconds of vigorous drying, Brianna began to cry. It was the greatest sound I have ever heard. It is a great blessing to be involved in bringing a new life into the world. Nothing can compare to that feeling. It is a very exciting and emotional experience."
Her next step was to keep Brianna warm and to get mom and baby to Baxter Regional. "After wrapping Brianna, we all rode in the back of the ambulance, which was a pretty tight squeeze. We continued to open the warmpacks and place them around Brianna until she and her mother were admitted.
Merkle, who drove the ambulance said, "Although I've assisted several pregnant women in getting to the hospital, I've delivered five babies during my EMS career. They were all great moments in my life. It makes everything worthwhile."
Caron Alexander, RN, director of the BRMC Women's Center, told McClung and Merkle they had done a good job delivering Brianna. "I was impressed with everything they did. Mom and baby are doing great," she said.
Even after all that French had been through, she was up walking around the same day and visiting with her friend Jessica Bassham. Bassham said, "Sharla was all smiles as she held her beautiful baby."
Although McClung and Merkle finished their shift at 7 a.m. that morning, they stopped by later that day to visit Brianna and her happy mother. They brought Brianna her first present, a teddy bear.