Volunteers deliver baby in dramatic homebirth

Snow support

Kind-hearted volunteers in Oxfordshire helped deliver a baby in a dramatic homebirth in a rural snow covered village.

Trevor Hipkin and Darren Howes, had been on duty since midnight on Monday 9 February as part of St John Ambulance’s support to the South Central Ambulance Service.

They received a call from ambulance control at just before 2.00am to visit a home in the snow-hit village of Upper Hayford as a woman had gone into labour. The ambulance service had dispatched a paramedic but as Darren and Trevor were close to the house and in a St John Ambulance 4x4 they were asked to ensure the woman was ok.

Trevor said: ‘When we first arrived a neighbour led us into the house and we found the mother in a position on the kitchen floor where she felt most comfortable. After an initial examination we thought she seemed to be in the early stages of labour, so we set about taking routine information, like her blood pressure.

It was a dramatic night for all concerned and not a normal occurrence but thankfully one we are trained and equipped for.

Trevor Hipkin
St John Ambulance volunteers in Oxfordshire

‘Her husband joked that if it was anything like their previous baby, it would be out like a steam train - and he wasn’t wrong. Literally it seemed like ten minutes later she said ‘I think the head’s coming’. We thought 'Surely not?' as she was barely dilated moments earlier but when we re-examined her we realised ‘oh yes it is!’.

‘We always carry a maternity pack in the ambulance so we opened that and got the towels, cord clamp and swabs ready just in case. We knew the paramedic was on his way but the ambulance had to climb a steep hill and we didn’t know how long he’d be - there was no time to wait.

‘We delivered the head and then, much to our relief, Eric the paramedic arrived and helped ensure the baby – a little boy - arrived safely into the world.

‘The emotional side of it didn’t hit us until after. It all happened so quickly, there wasn’t time to think about how amazing it all was. The mother does all the hard work but I’m pleased to say the training we have with St John Ambulance kicked in.’

Darren added: ‘I’m very proud of how we dealt with it as we’d never delivered a baby before. We’ve looked after people who have had strokes and heart attacks but normally with women in labour, there is enough time to get the mother to hospital.

‘It was a dramatic night for all concerned and not a normal occurrence but thankfully one we are trained and equipped for. It’s certainly a night we’ll never forget and our best wishes go to the new family.’

After the birth, it was no rest for the volunteers as Darren and Trevor then stayed on shift answering further calls until 7.00am, when they could finally get some much needed sleep.

Trevor, 47 from Thame, and Darren, 28 from Bicester, have very different day jobs. Trevor normally works for Chinnor Parish Council and Darren works for the NHS in learning disabilities. Both were able to volunteer as they’d taken days off.

The delivery is one of the more unusual ways that St John Ambulance is helping ambulance services throughout the country. Volunteers have given 155 hours of their time since 1 February in Oxfordshire alone.

David Williams, Head of Operations, South Central Ambulance Service NHS Trust, said: ‘Volunteers have an important part to play in helping us to reach patients and deliver essential support as fast as possible. This incident shows terrific teamwork, and St John Ambulance Service volunteers Trevor Hipkin and Darren Howes should both be commended along with both SCAS crew members, Emergency Care Assistant Erica Cowley and Paramedic Eric Smith, both based in Kidlington.'