A Burton firefighter was honored last month for helping to successfully deliver and resuscitate a premature baby in February.
Lt. John Ireland was working his part-time job as a paramedic for Beaufort County Emergency Medical Services on Feb. 3 -- Super Bowl Sunday -- when he helped deliver the baby girl "in the middle of nowhere" while transporting her mother from Beaufort Memorial Hospital to a hospital in Charleston.
Ireland was given the Individual Care Excellence Award from LifeNet SC and parent company Air Methods, which operates most of the medical helicopter services in the state, for helping deliver the baby while he and EMS partner Adam Shouse moved the mother to the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.
Ireland said such transports are usually reserved for commercial ambulances, but none were available. He said his EMS chief told them it would be a "simple" transport.
It was anything but that.
"We had just passed the intersection of U.S.17 and S.C. 303 when the mother said she was in pain," he said. "I told Adam to step on it, that we needed to get there soon."
With the mother just 28 weeks pregnant, Ireland knew she was close to a cutoff date in which premature birth could be fatal for the baby. With no practical neonatal experience, Ireland credited his training from Burton Assistant Chief Randy Wells -- a veteran of neonate transports -- in knowing what to do in the situation.
"I remembered everything he said about neonatal care while I was back there (in the ambulance)," he said.
Once the mother gave birth, Ireland cleaned out the baby's nose and mouth and used a bag-valve mask to get her breathing.
"She started turning from blue to pink, and soon she started to open her eyes and cry," he said. "Once she started to cry, I tried to keep her warm and awake with what we had in the back of the ambulance."
Ireland and Shouse delivered the mother and baby to MUSC safe, sound and healthy soon thereafter.
Ireland said the experience left him "pretty shaken up for about two or three days."
"It's hard to grasp," he said. "I have a young son, so I know how big an event it is. I wanted to do the best I could."
Ireland said he hadn't seen the mother and baby since that night in February, but he plans to.
Premature babies born as early as the one he helped to deliver are usually kept in the hospital until they reach the standard full term -- 40 weeks.