Herald JournalHerald Journal, Nov. 15, 2004

Father in National Guard meets baby by videoconference

By Jane Otto

Duty calls.

Service men and women, past and present, well understand that command. For them, it’s a commitment to serve their country at all costs.

That duty can cost lives. It can also cost families to be apart — sometimes too long and sometimes for life’s more memorable moments.

For Lynda and Brian Jensen, military duty meant giving birth to their third child without Brian being by Lynda’s side.

But thanks, to the efforts of Buffalo Hospital and the US. Army, Brian gazed upon his family along with 3-day old Brianna, via live video conferencing last Monday.

Time to serve

Brian is a St. Louis Park police officer and the former Dassel police chief, and Lynda is this paper’s editor, and, understandably, on maternity leave.

Bryan is also in the National Guard, something he’s done for close to 20 years. The past summer, Bryan and a pregnant Lynda learned his unit would be deploying for 18 months, first training in Fort Dix, N.J., then to Iraq.

The summer and early fall months found the couple hectically dealing with the details of managing family life from either side of the globe.

On Oct. 14, Brian and 147 other soldiers boarded a New Jersey-bound bus in Morris.

The Jensens have now joined that long list of military families who have tearfully said, “good-bye.”

Two weeks ago, on a sunny, mild November morning, Lynda headed to Buffalo Hospital.

Shortly before 8 a.m. Nov. 5, Brianna Clarisse entered the world and let her voice be heard. Despite her loud cries, her father couldn’t hear them.

Three days later, though more than 2,000 miles apart, he was talking face-to-face with his family.

“It was awesome,” Lynda said in an audibly excited voice. “It was the first time he saw her. He was very excited.”

Making it happen

Familiar with family separations, the Army initiated the idea. Brian continually pressed Lynda to ask the hospital if they could do it.

Fearful, they might want to videotape the birth, Lynda was hesitant to ask.

“Bryan said, ‘Ask them, I’m, sure they have the capability,’” Lynda said.

She did.

“Lynda called us two days before the date of her C-section,” said Ann Grewe, Buffalo Hospital’s birth center manager.

Grewe quickly notified the hospital’s CEO, who in turn notified Allina’s technical people. Buffalo Hospital is an Allina-owned hospital.

That was Wednesday.

“They just got on it,” Grewe said. “But what happened is the military didn’t get back to us.”

Lydna checked ino the hospital on a Friday and was scheduled to leave on Monday.

That Friday evening, Grewe had a voicemail from the Army, and that weekend, Grewe became fast friends with Joy Tkachuck, Allina’s video-conferencing manager.

“We paged each other all weekend. Joy was on the phone while taking her kids here and there,” Grewe said. “She just didn’t stop.”

Come Monday and for the first time, the video-conference room, which is typically used for classes or meetings, became a place for family memories.

“It was too cool . . . There were tears all over the place,” Grewe said. “It was such an honor to do it . . . It’s all about the patient. It’s not the wonderful thing we did; it’s that it happened.”

Lynda was quick to recognized the hospital’s efforts to make it work.

“The hospital had to go through quite a lot to do that,” she said. “They were extra, extra, extra patient.”

Miles apart

For all the Jensen family, talking face to face, though only for about 20 minutes, was a definitely a scrapbook moment.

Brianna’s older brother and sister, Bryce and Latrice were also thrilled. Eight-year old Bryce “especially misses his dad,” Lynda said. “He rat packs with Brian everywhere.”

Concern crept into Lynda’s voice when she said, “He looked so tired.”

She followed that with a laugh when she recalled the glasses he wore. They’re what the military calls “BC” glasses, better known as birth-control glasses.

“You know the Bud Holly type,” Lynda said.

Brian told her with all the field exercises he’s involved in, he didn’t want to ruin his own glasses.

Once in Iraq, Brian, as a military policeman, will provide security for convoys traveling between Kuwait and Baghdad.

Attempts were made to reach Brian by his cell phone to get his version of last Monday’s memorable event. He, however, was in the midst of field operations.

Duty calls.

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