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COMMUNITY

'Feeling of joy': Cayuga County 911 dispatcher helps couple through birth of baby

Patti Enge

Cayuga County 911 dispatcher Patti Enge, middle, poses with Cayuga County Sheriff Brian Schenck and 911 administrator Denise Spingler.

Cayuga County 911 workers regularly receive calls from people in difficult and dangerous situations, but Patti Enge seems to have a knack for taking calls that end with particularly happy endings.

Enge, who has been a county 911 dispatcher for over a decade, has helped women deliver babies in three separate occasions over the years.

The latest came at 12:48 a.m. Thursday during an overnight shift, when Enge picked up a call from Auburn where a pregnant woman's husband requested an ambulance to pick up his wife, who was in labor.

It soon became apparent, however, that the baby was not going to wait. Enge told The Citizen Friday that dispatchers are trained for various emergency medical dispatch scenarios, including pregnancy. It wasn't long before the husband saw the baby's head, so Enge helped the couple through the delivery step by step. A baby boy arrived within four minutes of the call. 

As part of the steps, Enge asked the husband to wrap the baby in a cloth and to check to make sure the child was breathing, and she could hear "that amazing sound" of the newborn crying. She could hear other children with the man and woman over the phone, so Enge felt as if she was physically in the room with them.

Before she could instruct the man in cutting the umbilical cord, the Auburn Fire Department arrived. Although the phone call lasted just a few minutes, Enge said she was "on cloud nine" for the rest of her shift.

"It's just such a feeling of joy to know that you helped these people bring a life into the world," she said. "It was just so elating. It made my night."

Though there are times where 911 callers aren't listening to what dispatchers or saying, Enge noted the husband who called last week "in a sense, was perfect."

"He was very good at listening to what I had to say, following the instructions. If he had a question, he would wait until I would finish speaking," she said, adding that the man also didn't try to talk over her.

Enge, who worked at a day care before joining the 911 dispatch and has had two children of her own who are now adults, is no stranger to assisting with deliveries over the phone. She said she helped a couple with a birth during the middle of winter in Moravia a few years ago, and in 2019 she talked some Cayuga County Sheriff's Office deputies through delivering a couple's baby on the side of a road.

Many of Enge's coworkers have never delivered a child by phone before, so they playfully teased her Thursday about getting the opportunity on three occasions, and she would jokingly "rub it in" in turn, she said. She is thrilled that she happened to pick up those pregnancy calls. 

"It's nice to know that you were to able to help them and that you were that voice of calm to help them stay calm, to do what they needed to do," Enge said

Enge added that although she often gets calls about crimes, car accidents and "the worst of the worst," she is glad to help people during what can potentially be the worst moments of their lives.

"I love going to work to work every day," she said. "It's never the same thing every day."

Denise Spingler, the county 911 administrator, said Friday that although 911 ges plenty of calls about women in labor, she believes there have only been around five or six times where a dispatcher has helped deliver a baby themselves in the last decade.

"Patti has been the lucky one to have had three of them," Spingler said.

Spingler said helping people through those special milestones is satisfying for dispatchers.

"It's very, very stressful for a family in that situation, and to have that calming voice behind the scenes, telling them step by step how to manage that situation and have a successful outcome really does give them a sense of satisfaction," she said. 

Staff writer Kelly Rocheleau can be reached at (315) 282-2243 or kelly.rocheleau@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @KellyRocheleau.

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Education and City Reporter

Hello, my name is Kelly Rocheleau, and I cover the education and city beats for The Citizen and auburnpub.com. I've been writing for the paper since December 2016.

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