Officer delivers baby in Japanese ambulance
ATSUGI - The morning of May 13 didn't start off as a normal one for a Naval Air Facility (NAF) Atsugi couple. Instead the day began with an unexpected delivery.
The expectant mother and her husband tried to drive to Naval Hospital Yokosuka but with contractions happening only minutes apart, the woman knew they wouldn't make it and asked her husband to take her to Branch Health Clinic (BHC), Atsugi.
The on-duty medical provider at BHC, Lt. Cmdr. Donald Setter, received a phone call from the husband explaining the situation and stating they were on their way to the clinic.
"Within three to five minutes of receiving that call, she was at the clinic," said Setter. "I checked and evaluated her and she was completely dilated and close to delivery. That was when we called for a duty crew and contacted the local host nation ambulance."
Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) Satoshi Makita, of the Ayase Paramedic team, was the leader of the crew responding to the emergency call.
By 10:20 a.m. Makita and his crew of two, the patient, Setter and BHC translator Tomohiko Oshima were ready to head to a local hospital.
"I kept asking the patient with every contraction, 'Are you feeling the urge to push?'" said Setter. "You could tell by the look on her face she was, before she even said yes."
They still had another 10 minutes to get to the hospital, but with the next contraction Setter asked the crew to pull over as the baby was coming.
Two pushes later, the patient gave birth to healthy baby boy.
Setter said the experience was exhilarating and scary at the same time, but says he couldn't have done it without the services of the EMTs.
"It was a very smooth and seamless interaction with them," said Setter. "They were always very professional and courteous."
Setter also said having Oshima there to translate between himself and Makita's crew was essential, especially when it was time for delivery and directing what instruments were needed and what actions needed to be performed.
Makita has had countless experiences with women giving birth inside the ambulance, so he directed the other two EMTs.
"When I went home that day, I was very happy to have been at the scene and able to help," said Makita. "I've had similar kinds of experiences in the past where things did not go well, but this time the baby was very healthy and had no abnormalities."
Once the crew arrived at the local hospital, the mother and baby were provided immediate care and transportation was arranged to take them to Naval Hospital Yokosuka.
"Mom did an absolute fantastic job," said Setter. "She was the super star throughout the whole experience. She did all the work, I was just there to guide things and make sure they went smoothly."
Now back at NAF Atsugi, Setter said the mother and baby are doing very well.
"From the bottom of my heart, congratulations," said Makita. "If one day I can see the baby, older and healthy, I will be very happy."
For NAF Atsugi, it's important for expectant women to have a plan of action, especially in case of an early labor.
Setter says he recommends that if a patient has other children to have somebody available at any time to watch the kids and somebody able to drive them to the hospital, especially in the event of their spouse being deployed.
"My advice to women who have experienced childbirth before is to prepare for a faster delivery since the body knows what to do already," said Makita.
Setter and Makita both said in the event their plans fall through, be sure to go to the hospital right away or call 911.
"Childbirth is a very natural phenomenon," said Setter. "It has happened for thousands of years and quite frequently happens outside of the hospital, even today."