By Ryan Gueningsman
DELANO, MN Delano’s newest resident will have no fewer than five special fathers following her exciting entry into the world the early morning hours of Sept. 13.
Ellie Jayne Fix, the daughter of Kevin and Jessica Fix of Delano, was brought into the world by two Ridgeview paramedics and three Delano firefighters.
It was five minutes before 3 a.m. when the pagers of the Delano Fire Department went off, alerting them that Fix, 37 weeks into her pregnancy, was having contractions approximately a minute a part. She had a Caesarean section planned for Oct. 2.
All awakened at their homes, Delano Fire Chief Bob Van Lith, Captain Gary Zitzloff, and Training Officer Matt Van Lith responded to the fire hall. All three men were thinking the same thing.
“I got a year-and-half year old, and I know what a minute apart contractions mean,” Matt Van Lith, a nine-year veteran of the fire department, said.
“I thought, ‘we’re going to be delivering tonight,’” Zitzloff, a 23-year veteran of the fire department, said. “The adrenaline kicks in just like it would if there were a car accident. You plan ahead. I was the first one at the station, and Matt was right behind me. The first thing he said was, ‘sounds like we’re going to deliver’ we decided we’d leave (for the Fix house) with three of us.”
Bob Van Lith said when he heard the page, he began running the scene through his mind and began planning what they’re going to do when they got there.
“That’s kind of a normal procedure,” Van Lith said. “You train on it, so you run that through your mind as you go.”
As the two Van Liths and Zitzloff were running through their heads what they’re about to walk into, father-to-be Kevin Fix was on the phone with Ridgeview Care Center dispatcher Lori McKusick telling her everything that was happening with his wife, Jessica.
Upon receiving the 911 call, Wright County Dispatch transferred the call to McKusick.
She said this was her second call of this nature, and said it is the only one where she knew the baby was coming sooner rather than later. She figured that part out when Kevin said Jessica’s water broke and contractions were one minute a part.
“I basically helped him realize this baby was going to be born right now and that he better be ready,” McKusick recalled with a smile. “I could hear it in his voice that he was like, ‘I’m not sure I can do this.’”
From there, McKusick instructed Kevin on what supplies to get ready, and then Delano Fire/Rescue arrived at the Fix residence. With the birth of their first daughter, Emma, an emergency Caesarean section had to be done following 16 hours of labor.
“Knowing that, that puts a different light on things,” Bob Van Lith said, still running the scene through his mind.
“They were here within two minutes,” Jessica said Wednesday about the Delano Fire Department, the day after she returned home from the hospital.
As Delano Fire was arriving at the Fix residence the Ridgeview ambulance dispatched to the scene was well on its way from Minnetrista. Paramedics Andrew Grasmick and “Doctor” Jay Durose headed to Delano for what seemed to be a typically routine call. Durose said calls are commonly received with water breaking or labor pains.
“We didn’t figure it was a big deal,” said Durose, a 25-year emergency responder, “so we start heading up here and Delano Fire calls us and says contractions are a minute apart then we got a little excited.”
The two Van Liths and Zitzloff were at the residence working with Kevin and Jessica, making her as comfortable as possible, monitoring vitals, and preparing for delivery.
“We were starting to do vitals and get some stuff done, and when the ambulance pulled up, she was starting to crown already,” Matt Van Lith said. “It wasn’t too many minutes after that and the baby was born. It timed out really well as far as getting everything ready for the delivery.”
“(Delano) Fire was there right away, giving us a report of what was going on, and you could see on their faces it was definitely close,” Grasmick said upon he and Durose’s arrival.
“Mom did a wonderful job. She was very calm during the whole thing for having five guys standing around,” Grasmick said with a laugh. “Dad was great. He was trying to help out wherever he could, getting towels for us.”
“It seemed like only a few minutes after the paramedics got there, all the sudden there was a push and here it came,” Zitzloff recalled with a smile, adding that new father Kevin was able to cut the umbilical cord and that Jessica was able to hold her newborn daughter within minutes of the delivery.
“Mom did great she basically smiled through the whole thing,” Durose said. “She didn’t scream at all.”
After little Ellie Jayne was brought into the world, Zitzloff said those on scene began looking at getting Jessica and Ellie out of the bedroom and into the ambulance to go to the hospital.
Zitzloff rode with new mother Jessica and Ellie to the hospital while Kevin stayed home, cleaning up, and keeping an eye on 16-month-old Emma, who slept through the entire thing.
“Through all the screams, dog barking, and sirens, she slept through the whole darn thing,” Kevin said.
“She was in the bedroom right next to us and didn’t wake up,” Zitzloff said.
Even the Fixs’ dog, Chloe, a lovable yellow Lab, barked a bit, but took everything in stride.
Earlier in the day, the Fixs were actually planning on getting things ready for Ellie’s arrival in October.
“We didn’t get very far,” Kevin said with a laugh, adding that maybe he shouldn’t have watched as much of the Gophers game as he did.
“It was pretty exciting,” Kevin said, looking toward his wife, and asking with a smile, “Where do you think we can have the next one?”
A whole team effort
At the fire hall Thursday evening, the three Delano firefighters, the two Ridgeview paramedics, and dispatcher all gave their addresses to Kevin and Jessica for updates on Ellie.
This was the first time they had all been together since Ellie’s birth, and the first time McKusick was able to meet the Delano firefighters and Fix family.
“I know Ridgeview’s dispatch was talking to the dad and walking him through things when we got there it’s a whole team effort,” Bob Van Lith said.
For Durose, the delivery was special to him because he has delivered eight babies in a home setting and also has eight children of his own.
“I can watch all the videos I want and I’ve watched many of them, but that doesn’t even compare until when you actually see it and when you hear the baby cry,” Zitzloff said.
Close, but not quite
Bob Van Lith recalled a delivery that took place in Delano in the ambulance about two blocks away from the residence, but never one in a residence.
“I didn’t see it delivered, but it was only two blocks away and we were right behind the ambulance yet,” Bob Van Lith said. “When I see that child, and mother, too, I think I was right there . . . this one, too, I was right there, I was part of it. I was part of bringing this child into the world it will always mean something. This is the first (delivery) in the house that I know of for the fire department, and I’ve been around for 31 years.”
Zitzloff said, for Van Lith, it even hit closer to home as Van Lith became a grandfather just over a year ago.
“I know Bob, being he is a grandpa, it kinda hits closer to him,” Zitzloff said. Van Lith will soon have the chance to become grandpa, yet again, with another grandchild on the way.
Bob Van Lith admitted he has always wanted to be a part of a call like this.
“I’ve always wanted to be part of it, and it happened,” he said. “You do go out to accidents and deaths and stuff that aren’t so fun . . . this one was unique.”
Zitzloff has three grown children, but is yet to be able to officially call himself grandpa.However, that changed the morning of Sept. 13 with the birth of baby Ellie, who is someone Zitzloff will carry with him in his heart for a long time.
“That sticks with you all the time,” Zitzloff said. “I was wound up. I couldn’t sleep. I was on cloud nine. When someone rides with the ambulance to Waconia, someone else comes and picks us up. There was no way Matt or Bob could sleep, so they both came over I’m still on cloud nine.”
“It was a great experience,” Grosmick added. “It feels good to be a part of it.
“I can appreciate it because I have a child now,” Matt Van Lith said. “I’m appreciative of it . . . that doesn’t happen every day in Delano, that’s for sure.”
After the Fixs returned home from the hospital, Zitzloff and his wife, Jeanne, stopped by with a few small gifts for Ellie, including several bibs that Zitzloff’s sister-in-law Dorothy made that said “Delano Fire Department,” and a blanket with her birth date from the fire department.
Zitzloff said the early-morning delivery was capped off with a comment from Bob Van Lith after the three returned to the Delano Fire Hall.
“You know how we always clear (with dispatch) when coming back to the station, Bob cleared and said ‘back at the hall and one new resident.’”
“I can’t say enough about those guys,” Jessica said. It was quite the experience. I’m still in shock.”
“I’m just glad my husband didn’t have to deliver,” she added with a laugh.