‘Heroes’: Allegan Co. dispatcher helps couple with unexpected home birth

‘Heroes’: Allegan Co. dispatcher helps couple with unexpected home birth

ALLEGAN COUNTY, Mich. (WOOD) — An Allegan County couple is holding their healthy baby boy close after an unexpected home delivery last week.

“It was special. It was the best moments of our lives,” Larry Graham said.

Amanda and Larry pictured with their son, Archer.Amanda and Larry pictured with their son, Archer. (courtesy Larry and Amanda Graham)

Larry Graham and his wife Amanda Graham were expecting their son Archer’s arrival on Jan. 26. To their surprise, he decided to make his appearance a week early.

Around 9 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 19, the couple put their three children to bed in their rooms. Shortly after, Amanda Graham started having contractions.

The pain began to get worse and Larry Graham says he called Borgess Hospital approximately 40 minutes later. He spoke with a registered nurse who directed them to come to the hospital to get checked out.

In the process of getting their bags and waking up the kids, the contractions got worse, and baby Archer couldn’t wait any longer.

“My water kind of broke and there was a gush of fluid and I could just feel a lot of pressure,” Amanda Graham said. “I knew that he was coming and Larry was on the phone with 911 at that point.”

Amanda and Larry Graham estimated the time was approximately 9:50 p.m. when they called the Allegan County Central Dispatch. Jordan Reitzel answered the phone and began gathering information about Amanda Graham’s condition.

“Before I could even explain too much of that, Amanda yells ‘he’s crowning,'” Larry Graham said. “I look
and I could see the top of his head starting to come out.”

That’s when Reitzel took command and started going through the procedure of what they needed to do.
At the time, the couple was standing in the bathroom.

Rietzel suggested that Amanda Graham find somewhere to lay down but she said she couldn’t move. With little time to get Amanda Graham to a different position, Rietzel began offering other directions.

All Larry Graham could think about were the risks of his son slipping through his hands but the dispatcher’s advice was reassuring.

“She was telling us what to do and where to have my hands. I was on my knees. She was standing,” Larry Graham said. “He came out and fell gently into my hands. I was there guiding him the whole way. Head first into this hand. His little booty into this hand and I instantly kind of brought him to me.”

Rietzel instructed them to grab a towel and wrap him close to Amanda Graham. They walked to the living room to wait for EMS to arrive. More instruction followed.

“I had to find a string or shoelace and tie it around the umbilical chord. Not too tight. Not too loose.
that was nerve-racking in itself,” Larry Graham said. “I went from room to room to room trying to find something that I knew was clean and good.”

The strings Larry Graham used to tie the umbilical cord. (courtesy Larry and Amanda Graham)

Larry Graham then stumbled across a Halloween trick-or-treat backpack in the closet. It had just the strings he thought the dispatcher asked for. He cut a section of the string off and used that to tie up the umbilical cord.

“It was crazy over here and on her end of the line she just held her composure. We were pretty shocked,” Larry Graham said. “Having someone on the other end who was calm, cool and collected was a lot for us.”

Rietzel stayed on the phone until first responders came. Larry and Amanda Graham, still in shock and nervous, were met with more kindness when they received a knock at their door.

The couple says the EMS crews went above and beyond to make sure they were okay, even salting the driveway to make the walk to the ambulance much easier.

Amanda Graham couldn’t ride in the same ambulance as her newborn but she was able to still see and talk to him through a Facetime call on one of the technician’s cell phones.

“They were great with our care … really great. They got immediately in and just started getting right to work, doing what they had to do,” Larry Graham said.

The couple aren’t first time parents but they’ve never experienced a birth quite like what they went through.

They live 40 minutes away from the hospital. It was snowing on the night of the delivery and both are just thankful the delivery happened just the way it did.

“That was a blessing from God that it didn’t happen in the winter, on the side of the road. The danger factor of that is huge,” Larry Graham said.

What they’re most grateful for are the men and women who made this the most memorable birth for their family.

Baby Archer Graham. Archer Graham. (courtesy Larry and Amanda Graham)

Neither have ever called 911 before and they now have a better idea of just how thankful the community should be for the people on the other side of an emergency call.

“They are the heroes in this situation. They did amazing. Our gratitude to them is just huge. We are forever indebted to them,” Larry Graham said.

“I think people take for granted the people in the community that have jobs like that,” Amanda Graham added.

The couple and the Allegan County Central Dispatch are planning for them all to meet sometime soon.

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