LOUISBURG — Miami County paramedic Jeff Watts smiled as he held 1-year-old Caroline Ferrero for a second time.
On this occasion — the celebration of her first birthday with pizza and cake Friday, Sept. 6, at the Louisburg fire station — was in more pleasant surroundings than the first time Watts held Caroline.
Stephanie Ferrero gave birth to Caroline on the side of U.S. Highway 69 north of Louisburg on Sept. 6, 2018. Watts held Caroline for the first time after cutting the umbilical cord on that cool and wet night.
“I remember I was concerned about the cold and her body temperature. I wrapped her up to keep her warm,” recalled Watts, a paramedic with Miami County Emergency Medical Services.
Louisburg Fire Chief Gerald Rittinghouse was one of the first to arrive on the scene and he helped with the delivery, the fourth of his career.
Rittinghouse, joined the Ferreros for pizza and birthday cake at the station, said he enjoys happy reunions like these.
It was a dramatic night for Stephanie and Joe Ferrero exactly one year ago.
Around 2:45 a.m., Stephanie’s water broke and she and her husband put their 2 ½-year-old daughter Lizzy in a car seat in the family’s Chevrolet Equinox and left their home near Pleasanton, bound for the Overland Park Regional Medical Center.
“It usually doesn’t feel like that far of a drive, but that night it seemed to take forever,” Stephanie said.
The family was heading north on U.S. Highway 69 when Stephanie’s contractions started to intensify. Fearing that they wouldn’t make it to the hospital, Stephanie said Joe started to get off on the 247th Street exit, but there was a break in the pain.
“I told him to keep driving to the hospital,” Stephanie said.
Shortly after they were back on the highway, Stephanie realized they weren’t going to make it to the delivery room on time.
Stephanie called 911 while Joe pulled the vehicle onto the shoulder and rushed over to the passenger side just in time to catch his daughter, Caroline.
Stephanie said the 911 operator was a great help, as she instructed Joe to tie off the umbilical cord using his shoe laces. Considering he was wearing muddy boots at the time, he and Stephanie decided to improvise and instead use string from a gift bag that was in the back seat.
While his boots were muddy, Joe said he was glad he was wearing a brand new, clean white shirt that evening instead of a work shirt that frequently gets dirty in his line of work as a wildlife officer with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, based in Linn County.
In the back seat of the Equinox, Lizzy remained quiet in her car seat, mesmerized by the event unfolding in front of her.
Joe said Lizzy will still talk about that night on occasion.
Soon, emergency crews arrived on the scene, including an ambulance from Miami County EMS, two state troopers and a fire truck.
Watts and EMT Scott Hoover were quick to assist, and Stephanie said she is incredibly thankful for them. Hoover said after the birth had taken place, the next task was getting mother and daughter to the hospital as quick as they could.
Stephanie and Joe said they were impressed with the level of professionalism displayed by all the responders.
While the couple wasn’t sure what to put down as the place of birth, Stephanie said she knows the time of Caroline’s birth was 3:16 a.m. because Joe noted it when they called 911.
Stephanie, Joe, Lizzy and Caroline brought a birthday cake with them to the celebration at the fire department building which is also home to Miami County EMS Station No. 2.
In blue icing, the top of the cake read, “Thank you Miami County EMS.”