For babies, dial 000 and hold on
Just a few days ago, and as first reported here in this alert column, triple-0 call-taking officer Melissa Arnold in Wollongong helped, superbly, with the urgent delivery of a baby 184 kilometres away in Queanbeyan.
Kelly Stocks, at home and alone just after three in the morning (her husband Alan was driving home from having taken their infant son, James, to stay with grandparents in the bush) had suddenly gone into labour.
She dialled 000 and suddenly she wasn't so alone because Arnold, very professional but very reassuring and warm and sisterly too, was with her in spirit, helping her. The baby was born, on the Stocks' family's couch, during the 20 dramatic minutes of their conversation and while the summoned ambulance was scurrying towards Queanbeyan from Canberra.
Kelly Stocks of Queanbeyan, birth to Lila home alone, on with the assistance of the 000 call centre. Adoring dad Alan Stocks looks on. Photo: Melissa Adams
On Tuesday, on the eve of NSW's Thank A Paramedic Day, the two women who'd had that important but disembodied conversation were united in the same living room where the baby, Lila, was born (furnished now with a new couch). Arnold drove up from Wollongong to be there.
Lila slept serenely through most of Arnold's visit. (''She's gorgeous! Look at all that hair!'' Arnold, herself a baby-appreciating mother of three, marvelled at the sleeping baby she'd helped deliver). And so Lila missed the presentation to Arnold of some flowers and of a thank-you card, and also the heartfelt hug the two women gave one another.
''Thank you for helping us. And when I needed it so badly!'' Kelly Stocks laughed.
Ambulance NSW Control Centre Officer Melissa Arnold with baby Lila Stocks and mum Kelly Stocks from Karabar. Photo: Jeffrey Chan
''You're welcome, I wish everyone was as calm as you,'' Arnold told her, marvelling that she's known some people on the phone making a bigger fuss about stubbing a toe than Kelly Stocks had been about giving birth, alone.
Together the two women, with Lila still blissfully ensconced in the Land of Nod, nattered happily about the events of that fraught wee-small-hours 20 minutes. There was lots of womanly discussion of contractions (Kelly Stocks' contractions, I eavesdropped, had gone from 10 minute intervals to being urgent five-minute ones in the twinkling of an eye) and other obstetric details that made this male columnist feel a little like an interloper. But I was moved to be there to hear Arnold say how wonderful it had been for her to share (though so far away) with Stocks the first divine caterwauling of the freshly-emerged Lila.
Arnold, who is one of the most transparently, artlessly natural souls you could hope to meet, freely admitted to all of us in the room and awake (sleeping Lila missed out on this true confession) that after the paramedics had arrived and her professional part was over, she began to cry.
''I'd just got off the phone, and I had to leave my desk because I didn't think I was right to take any more calls for a little while. My boss took me out to the kitchen and asked 'Are you OK?' and I said 'Yes, I'm fine. I'm just a little bit emotional, that's all.' But I've been pregnant three times and I could imagine what it must have been like for Kelly to be alone in that situation.
''We are professional, and they do train us well and the training's excellent, but of course we're human too, and some calls really do get through to you.''
Thank goodness, then, for Alexander Graham Bell's brilliant invention, the telephone, that so successfully put the two women of this touching saga in touch. Thank A Paramedic Day should probably as well be thank Alexander Graham Bell day. The Ambulance Service of NSW (organisers of Thank A Paramedic Day) advises that NSW paramedics respond to a telephone call every 26.7 seconds and in 2011-12 responded to an average of 3234 calls a day, all adding up, in the past financial year, to 1,183,795 ''callouts'' enabled with 21st century versions of the contraption the inventive Bell patented in 1876.
Adding to the drama of that Tuesday morning of our story, Kelly Stocks told us on Tuesday, was the fact that to call triple 0 she'd had to use a brand new phone.
''I didn't know how to use my phone because I'd just got it that day. It could have gone so badly. So I pressed zero zero zero, and it all worked! So much could have gone wrong. But we got so lucky at the end.''
But serene Lila, the lovely evidence of all the good luck that had accumulated ''at the end'', slept on even through this dramatic account.