Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia
Date: April 25, 1992
On April 25, 1992, Beth and Mike Mannino of Lawrenceville, Georgia, were eagerly awaiting the birth of their second child, due in one month. Around 6:30 in the evening, Beth started having painful contractions, and asked Mike to run to the store for aspirin and juice. As Beth lay on the bed, her contractions became more frequent and unbearably painful. Then her water broke. Frightened that she might go into labor alone, she called 911. "I need an ambulance," Beth told Gwinnett County Dispatcher Bob Cooper. "I'm thirty-six weeks pregnant and my water just broke, and I think I'm having it--now."
Beth explained that she was home alone and that her first baby had been born thirty minutes after her water broke. Cooper grew tense. This was his first obstetrics call, and he immediately turned to his medical information cards, which give step-by-step instructions on how to handle any given emergency. "The answers she was giving me to my questions," recalls Cooper, "was pointing me straight up the page to 'Imminent Birth,' imminent birth, imminent birth." "Have you ever delivered a baby?" asked Beth. "No, but I think we can help you out if there's any problem. You just need to stay as comfortable as possible, okay?" "That's obviously coming from a man," laughed Beth, and Cooper laughed too.
Mike drove up and saw Beth banging on the second-story window. She'd heard the car and wanted Mike to hurry up. I'm coming as fast as I can, Mike thought. How bad does she need this stuff? Mike raced into the bedroom and hung up the telephone receiver, which he'd noticed was off the hook. "You just hung up on 911!" shouted Beth hysterically. She screamed at Mike, who was baffled, still unaware of the impending delivery. "She was saying some words that would make a man blush," recalls Mike. "She really was."
Mike dialed 911 and was reconnected with Bob Cooper. "I thought, okay, it's brass tacks time around here," recalls Cooper. Cooper said the ambulance was on its way, then he instructed Mike to get two towels and a shoelace on hand because one month earlier she'd asked a doctor what would happen if she delivered while in the car. "Get a shoelace," said the doctor, "just in case." "I couldn't imagine that I was going to deliver this baby," says Mike. "I just knew 911 was going to be here on time."
Cooper walked Mike through the instructions printed on his cards. "It's coming! This head's right at the end!" Mike suddenly shouted. "Okay, okay, okay! The head's coming out!" Beth pushed and the baby came out--with the umbilical cord wrapped around its neck. Mike delicately removed the cord, but the baby wasn't breathing. Cooper told Mike to tickle its feet. "There was just this beautiful, most wonderful scream I had ever heard," recalls Beth.
At 7:04, exactly nine minutes after her water had broken, Beth delivered her baby. "Is it a boy or a girl?" asked Cooper. "It's a boy!" replied Mike. "Congratulations," said Cooper. At that moment, Mike heard the ambulance, and said good-bye to Cooper with great relief. "As soon as I hung up the phone," recalls Cooper, "my head hit the desk and I thought, I can't believe I just survived that. I feel like I gave birth myself."
Beth and baby Drew were examined at the hospital and released in perfect health two days later. Beth thinks her husband was very courageous, and she praises dispatcher Cooper for helping deliver her son. "I've tried to think of the right words to thank Bob Cooper for all that he did," says Beth. "And I just don't think that they make words that big." Says Cooper, "The fact that we brought a new life into the world was pleasant experience--when it was all over."