(Courtesy Laura Goncalves)
When Hyde Park mom Laura Goncalves went into labor last December 30, she didn’t waste any time. Right after her first contraction, she packed her other three children into her car and drove to drop them off at a friend’s house while she went to the hospital.
But Goncalves didn’t count on her labor lasting less than an hour.
She and her children were in the car when it became clear the baby was coming quickly. Goncalves told her 12-year-old daughter Tanisha Andrade to call 911 on a cell phone while she kept driving. Sara Curry, an emergency medical technician for Boston Emergency Medical Services, said they would have to stop the car.
“They told me to pull over because the ambulance wasn’t going to chase me around, so I had to stop where I was,” Goncalves, 31, said with a laugh during a phone interview Friday.
Goncalves was willing to wait for the ambulance, but her baby was not. As her labor continued, Curry instructed young Andrade over the phone, guiding the 12-year-old to support baby Jeilanni’s head, ensure that the umbilical cord was not wrapped around her neck, and to wrap her and keep her warm until the ambulance arrived.
“I was really scared,” Andrade said.
Through an EMS spokeswoman, Curry declined to be interviewed for this article. Deputy Superintendent Joe O’Hare, commander of dispatch operations, explained that Curry, an EMS employee for six years, is “not really one for the fanfare of recognition,” but he had high praise for her.
“She’s compassionate, she’s kind, she’s a great EMT both in the field and up in dispatch,” he said.
O’Hare has heard the recording of her conversation with Andrade, and he said when the girl admitted she was scared, Curry replied, “I know you are hon, but it’s OK, and I’m going to help you deliver that baby.”
O’Hare, himself an EMT and paramedic for 33 years, said EMS delivers several babies in ambulances each month, but only a few times a year is the baby born before an ambulance can arrive. He said situations like this are why all EMS dispatchers and operators are also EMTs with field experience and training in dealing with stressful situations.
Andrade was just relieved her little sister was born healthy and that an ambulance soon arrived. She didn’t expect the accolades that have followed, including an upcoming statewide honor.
On March 8, Andrade and Curry will both be presented with the 911 Medal of Honor and 911 Heroes Certificate at the state’s 911 Heroes Awards Ceremony. The unexpected teamwork between a steadfast woman and a frightened girl has earned high praise for both.
“Our dispatch staff are the critical link between the public and our field crews every hour of every day,” said EMS Chief Jim Hooley in a statement released by the city. “We are extremely proud of EMT Curry and her dedication to doing everything she could to ensure a good outcome for this family.”
Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino agreed with Hooley.
“Sara Curry’s calm under enormous pressure demonstrates the vital role played by emergency dispatchers every day,” Menino said, according to the statement. “She went well beyond the call of duty in guiding a scared 12-year-old girl to help her mother. As for Tanisha, the story shows that she is a very mature big sister. Her mother must be very proud of her.”
Goncalves, who came to the US from Cape Verde at 13, is proud of all her children, but it already appears that a special relationship is forming between Jeilanni and her big sister. Andrade said she helps her mom by holding the baby and changing her diaper, and she feels good that she was able to help bring her into the world.