With Hurricane Irma’s winds roaring outside the Liberty City apartment where they were sheltered, one young couple endured a whirlwind of a different kind last Sunday. Tatyanna Watkins, 23, went into labor with her boyfriend, David Knight, 26, as her only midwife.
Together with the expert advice of a dispatcher and a University of Miami Health System obstetrician on the phone, they safely delivered their daughter, Destiny Janine Knight, into the world at six pounds, 11 ounces and 20 inches.
Watkins, whose due date was September 11, is a mother of two and had gone through labor before, but never at home or during a category 4 hurricane.
Hurricane Irma “sounded like a train …. I can’t tell you what was going through my mind. I just knew she (baby Destiny) was coming,” Watkins said. “I had never delivered my own baby before, but I knew I had to stay calm about it.”
Labor began shortly before 1 a.m., and as contractions came faster, a panicked Watkins and Knight called 911 only to learn that EMTs could not be sent through the storm to help them. High winds and dangerous conditions prevented doctors and emergency personnel from coming to her door, but that wouldn’t stop them from coming to her aid. They would have to provide step-by-step instructions over the telephone.
City of Miami emergency dispatch supervisor Desiree Farrell walked Knight through gathering the supplies he would need to deliver the baby at home, coaching and calming both Knight and Watkins as labor progressed
. A three-way call was established to include Dr. Kendra Gillespie, an obstetrician-gynecologist from the University of Miami Health System who was on the emergency duty shift.
“When I got on the phone, baby had already been delivered and the cord had been tied off with a shoelace, as instructed by the dispatcher. So what was left to do was cut the cord and deliver the placenta,” said Gillespie. “Normally, we expect the placenta to come out within 30 minutes of having the baby … at that time it had been 35, 36 minutes, and mom was bleeding … so, I had to ask dad to get a little bit more involved.”
Gillespie instructed Knight on how to massage Watkins’ uterus with gentle pulling pressure to help the placenta deliver.
“Dad delivered the placenta, then I heard screaming. It sounded like the placenta was delivering,” said Gillespie. “Then he stopped responding to me.”
Knight had apparently fainted. Watkins assured Gillespie that the placenta haddelivered and all was well. By 8 a.m., paramedics were able to reach them and safely deliver them to The Women’s Hospital at Jackson Memorial.
Looking back on the experience, Watkins acknowledges that it was “traumatizing,” but she is thankful for the expert help she and Knight received over the phone during Destiny’s delivery.
“We were holding her and her eyes were wide open, she was looking everywhere,” Watkins said. “I’m just thankful I’m here, she’s here and everybody’s safe.”