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Principal delivers daughter in the breakdown lane

“My daughter told her class that her baby sister was born in the car, and no one believed her,’’ Mark Nardelli said yesterday. “My daughter told her class that her baby sister was born in the car, and no one believed her,’’ Mark Nardelli said yesterday. (NECN)
By Sarah Thomas
Globe Correspondent / September 9, 2010

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NEWTON — Principal Mark Nardelli wasn’t at Horace Mann Elementary School to greet a group of kindergarteners for their first day of class yesterday. That’s because he’d just met another child for the first time, under extraordinary circumstances.

At about 2 a.m., Nardelli delivered his daughter, Alora Grace, on the front seat of the family’s Honda Odyssey on Route 128 in Dedham, while he and his wife were en route to the hospital.

“We’re going to have to call him Dr. Mark from now on,’’ said Nardelli’s mother, Marie Nardelli, who lives in Newton. “She was due on the third, and we’d joked around about something like this happening. I told them they’d have to keep 911 on speed dial.’’

Calling 911 wasn’t enough, however, to prevent Alora from arriving in the breakdown lane near Exit 17. As mother and child rested at Newton-Wellesley Hospital yesterday afternoon, Mark Nardelli described the hurried sequence of events.

Nardelli said he and his wife, Christine Dardia, a teacher at Sheehan Elementary in Westwood, were asleep at home in a nearby suburb when her water broke around 1 a.m. He called his mother and a neighbor to watch their two older daughters, Eliana, 7, and Julia, 5.

“We packed the car and called the doctor,’’ he said. “We were out of there within 10 to 15 minutes.’’

As they headed north on Route 128, Nardelli called 911 and began speaking with emergency dispatchers. “My wife wanted to keep going, but the police said they couldn’t come unless we pulled over. We realized we weren’t going to make it and pulled into the breakdown lane.’’

Nardelli got a blanket from the back of the minivan, and “my wife did the magic.’’

An ambulance and police arrived on the scene shortly after the birth. Alora Grace weighed 6 pounds, 12 ounces, according to an e-mail Nardelli sent to parents at Horace Mann, where he is beginning his first year as principal.

“I cleared the airway. It was amazing. I felt like I was part of something special,’’ Nardelli said. “My wife did all the work. She was really a trouper. A calm came over us once we realized no one was going to help. We didn’t talk much. We just focused.’’

David Procopio, spokesman for the State Police, said that troopers responded within two minutes of Nardelli’s 911 call but that baby Alora was faster.

“We received the call at 1:57 a.m., and by 1:59 our trooper, William Newton, had arrived, but the baby had already been born,’’ Procopio said. “An ambulance from the Dedham Fire Department brought mom and baby to the hospital, and another state trooper, Sergeant James Concannon, gave both the ambulance and the father a police escort to Newton-Wellesley Hospital.’’

Nardelli said, “My daughter told her class that her baby sister was born in the car, and no one believed her until I came to pick her up from school.’’

Aaron Lewis, a friend who was visiting at the hospital yesterday, said Nardelli’s presence of mind did not surprise him.

“I was shocked at the circumstances, but not at Mark’s reaction,’’ Lewis said. “He’s a jack of all trades, and he’s great with kids.’’

But Nardelli’s mother thought her new granddaughter had something to do with it as well.

“She decided to come into the world with a bang,’’ Marie Nardelli said.

Sarah Thomas can be reached at sarah.m.thomas@gmail.com.

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