Toronto baby arrives early, puts paramedics to the test

A Toronto couple had to call on paramedics last month when their daughter's birth began four weeks earlier than expected.

A plan goes out the window, but parents say Toronto EMS staff knew what to do

Paramedics successfully delivered a baby girl who arrived 4 weeks early. 2:03

Liz Maier thought her daughter would be born in a hospital, surrounded by the doctors who planned to deliver her baby via C-section.

But that’s not the way things unfolded on a Friday night last month and it's why paramedics ended up delivering her baby girl at her Toronto home.

Stefana Dershko (left), a Toronto EMS dispatcher, poses with Liz Maier (centre), David Bennett (right) and the couple's newborn daughter Stephanie. (Kimberly Gale/CBC)

Maier and her husband, David Bennett, knew that their baby was in breech position and that’s why a team of doctors from Mount Sinai Hospital had been keeping track of her during her pregnancy.

But at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 6, 2013, Maier realized that she was already starting to give birth, four weeks earlier than she had expected.

Bennett made the call to 911, which put him in contact with a new dispatcher, Stefana Dershko, who had never helped on a delivery over the phone.

But Dershko told Bennett what to do while he waited for paramedics to arrive.

Within minutes, paramedic Ornella Guizzo was on scene, along with her colleague Michael Toliver. They began to assess the situation.

"The cord was sort of fairly snug, but not too snug, across the baby's throat and over the left shoulder," said Guizzo, when telling CBC News about what was happening when she got to the scene.

Ornella Guizzo was one of two paramedics who responded to the unexpected birth of a baby girl named Stephanie last month. (CBC)

"The baby was purple and not breathing."

After more than 20 years as a paramedic, Guizzo has witnessed many last and first breaths.

"We've done a lot of calls in our careers where it's been close, but this is just one that just stands out, will always stand out in my mind," Guizzo said.

Fortunately, Guizzo and her colleague were able to deliver the baby girl safely.

Maier believes she passed out at one point during the delivery, but she recalls seeing Guizzo out of the corner of her eye.

"All I could think about was, I really want to thank this woman," she said.

She got her chance on Thursday, when Guizzo and the team who helped Maier and her newborn daughter Stephanie got their "stork awards" — a tradition for EMS employees who deliver a baby.

Click on the video above to see a full report from the CBC’s Kimberly Gale.


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