Baby arrives on way to hospital
By Karen Blakeman
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Karen Blakeman
Aaron Mitchell Jr.'s first breath might have been mixed with a few gas fumes. The roar of low-flying jets and the hum of slow-moving traffic were among the sounds that surrounded his first moments of life.
Aaron was born at 7:34 a.m. yesterday at the Miyazaki Honolulu Airport Service Station, which was not the location his parents had planned.
Randaiah Smith, 22, had been having contractions when she awoke early yesterday morning at her home in Kapolei. But her water hadn't broken so she and her husband, Aaron Mitchell, 22, thought they had time. They thought they wouldn't need an ambulance.
At about 6:50 a.m., the couple and Smith's first son, Alvin Taylor, 3, loaded into Mitchell's 1991 Caprice and headed for Kaiser Permanente Moanalua Medical Center.
Morning rush-hour traffic was dense. Mitchell, a Navy military policeman, turned on the car's emergency flashers and headed for the fast lane on H-1 Freeway.
Then things started to get a little rough.
Smith's contractions suddenly became much stronger and she developed an intense — and clearly vocalized — need to push.
"I just knew I was going to have the baby in the car," she said. "My water didn't even break, and I was holding him in."
Mitchell called the hospital. Lori Protzman, a nurse manager, took the call. She could hear Smith in the background.
"The baby was coming," Protzman said. "You could hear it in her voice."
Mitchell, she said, was nervous. Protzman tried to get enough information to assess the situation, including the couple's distance from the hospital.
Mitchell was rattling off information from the H-1 exit ramp signs as he drove. He listed them too fast. He listed too many.
"Get off, Mitchell. Get off!" Protzman said.
Mitchell was trying.
"The exit was coming up fast," he said. "I was looking at everybody, giving them the mean look."
The drivers of the cars seemed to understand and got out of the way, he said. The bus that blocked his path to the exit didn't.
"The driver was looking at me and shaking his finger, like, 'No, no, no,' " he said.
Mitchell missed the Moanalua exit.
He also missed the 'Aiea and stadium exits.
Protzman passed the Mitchell call to an obstetrician and dialed 911 for an ambulance. With Mitchell speeding past exits, the directions she gave sounded like the landing scene from the movie "Airplane " — with paramedics instead of passengers, running from gate to gate.
"I didn't realize he was in the zipper lane and couldn't get out," she said.
Mitchell took the airport exit, with Protzman and the doctor telling him repeatedly he needed to stop, he needed to pull over. But there was no shoulder, no place to stop.
Mitchell was relieved when he saw Miyazaki Honolulu Airport Service Station. He pulled in, and switching between the Kaiser team and an EMS dispatcher on the phone, he got a few emphatic instructions: he had to get his wife to lie down on the seat.
"Then they were saying, 'You have to take her pants off,' " Mitchell said. "And I was like, 'No, I can't do that! No!' And they said, 'You have to do that so the baby can come out.' "
Mitchell said Navy law enforcement had not prepared him for that moment.
"Minor altercations. Giving people tickets," he said. "I was tripping out. I never delivered a baby."
Smith said the only calm person in the car was her son, Alvin, who was in the back seat.
"He kept saying, 'It'll be OK, Mommy,' " she said.
Mitchell got his wife partially undressed and took off his shirt to cover her. Then he enlisted the help of the service station crew.
At first they looked a bit apprehensive, he said.
"At first I thought it was trouble, but it was a baby," said Hiroko Asada, who has worked at the station since 1988. "It was the first time we had a baby. I was very happy."
The clean towels the station crew offered came in handy when Smith's water finally broke. Mitchell was trying to imagine how he was expected to catch a newborn when paramedics arrived.
Jane Greenwood, an EMS supervisor, pulled rank on the two paramedic interns who accompanied her.
Opportunities to bring life into the world, instead of watching it pass away, are too few in her profession, she said.
Greenwood and interns Chris Nitta and Harrison Kiefer covered the front, bench-type seat of the Caprice with sterile sheets, tucking them beneath Smith. Then Greenwood took over Mitchell's spot in the catcher's position.
"On the second push," she said, "the baby came out.
"The father kept saying, 'I can't believe my son was born in a gas station,' " she said.
Aaron Jr., 8 pounds, 4 ounces, with a full head of hair and a perfect score on the 1-minute newborn physical assessment test, is a beautiful child. He might be deprived of a younger sibling, however.
When asked if they would have another child, Smith and Mitchell replied in unison.
"Noooo!" they said.
"I'm still having flashbacks," Smith added.
Reach Karen Blakeman at firstname.lastname@example.org.