Flooded In, and In Labor

Cindy Banker's mother went into labor with her during a bad snowstorm in Alaska 29 years ago. Who knew what kind of natural disaster would happen to Cindy herself?

By Christopher W. Davis from Reader's Digest | April 2011

On the kitchen table, they laid out the supplies: two scalpels, gloves, masks, gowns, scissors, and a few old clamps that DeRoche had repurposed for hobbies around the house. There was a purple hair ribbon to soak in alcohol for tying off the cord. They had oral painkillers and antibiotics. No epidural, no anesthetic for surgery. But their ragtag kit would have to do. They stuffed the gear into a backpack and headed out.

“Are you sure you want us to have a baby in your bedroom, ma’am?” James asked Cassie Batty, who was gathering towels and sheets while Hasan tore up plastic trash bags to line the mattress. “Yes, of course. Absolutely!” Batty said. She could see the strain on the Bankers’ faces; they were sweating bullets.

With the power out from the storm, the room was gloomy, the air stifling. James timed Cindy’s contractions. They were growing closer together.

Meanwhile, downstairs a small crowd had assembled in response to Hasan’s BlackBerried SOS: two pediatricians, a nurse, and a surgery resident, Dr. Joe Greco. Greco had delivered his own child recently, but in a hospital with an ob-gyn. And yes, he was a surgery resident, but in plastic surgery. Greco checked Cindy and found she was dilated to about four centimeters. When Hasan announced that an ob-gyn was trying to get there, Greco heaved a sigh of relief. But could DeRoche get there in time? Cindy’s contractions were less than two minutes apart.

DeRoche and Hubbuch walked along Temple Road until they found what looked like a good place to cross — no visible electric lines or snakes. They waded in and sloshed through thigh-deep murky water. The footing was slick. DeRoche held the backpack over his head; it had to stay dry at all costs. When they finally climbed onto solid ground on the other side of the floodwaters, they still had two miles to go to get to Batty’s house.

Muddy and soaking wet, they tried hitching a ride. Two older women in a brand-new Lexus pulled over and rolled down their windows. “Delivering a baby!” DeRoche said.

“Get in! Let’s go!” said the driver. By the time DeRoche and Hubbuch arrived at Batty’s house, the medical crew had been boosted by yet another pediatrician and two delivery nurses; all were relieved when the Lexus dropped off a third nurse and a high-risk ob-gyn with an air of self-confidence.

Hubbuch went right to Cindy. “You’ve got the best people here — more than you’d have in a hospital. You can do this.” Cindy said she was feeling nauseated, to Hubbuch a sign the baby was on her way.

DeRoche set things up. Cindy would lie across the bed. Hasan laid out a cloth to protect the carpet. Hubbuch shouldered Cindy’s right leg while opening sterile gauzes; a pediatrician held her left leg and a flashlight. James sat behind her, bracing her back. Jayne Tuerff, James’s cousin, who had recently arrived on the scene, knelt at his back to bolster him. A third nurse climbed onto the bed, ready to take the baby from DeRoche. Still another volunteer held up a small fan that was hooked into a computer backup battery.

With rain pounding at the windows, candles flickering, flashlights beaming, people surrounding the bed, more of them pacing with anticipation downstairs, and a group of neighbors gathered outside, Clare Madelyn Banker, eight pounds 13 ounces, came into the world, crying loud and clear — that wonderful sound that’s proof to doctors and nurses and parents that a newborn is breathing.

“You did it!” Batty told Cindy. “She’s beautiful!”

When the news reached the people downstairs and outside, there were cheers all around.

In the coming days, DeRoche, along with hundreds of other Nashvillians, joined crews helping families recover from the devastating thousand-year flood, mucking out rooms and tearing down ruined drywall. He would hear people talk about the baby delivered during the chaos that claimed ten lives and shattered countless others. In the midst of such tragedy, it was one bright and positive thing.

The Bankers joked about changing Clare’s name to Noah. And when they sent out birth announcements, each member of their impromptu team also received a heartfelt thank-you note and a little gift: an umbrella.

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