Fire Department chief delivers 9/11 baby in car
By GWEN OREL
Deputy Chief of Logistics Brian Wilde of the Montclair Fire Department was at Morristown Medical Center visiting a family member when he heard someone shouting “Someone help me!” He turned and saw a man standing next to a car, shouting that his wife was having a baby.
When you think about 9/11 and a fire chief, you probably don’t think of new life, but on this Sept. 11 Wilde helped deliver a new life into the world: Kai Francis Grandstaff.
Lori Grandstaff, of East Hanover, made it to the hospital but was too far along in her labor to wait any longer, and Wilde aided in the delivery of baby Kai Francis Grandstaff in the back seat of the couple’s car.
Wilde’s appearance at just the right moment reminded Lori Grandstaff of a miracle: “There was no time for COVID tests, or any PPE, just a baby that wanted to make an entrance and a man willing to step in.”
Wilde said people were looking around, clearly wondering what to do.
He walked over, assuming the man needed a wheelchair, but the man shouted, “The baby’s coming now.”
And sure enough, Wilde recalled with a laugh, “we were going to deliver the baby right there.”
Grandstaff had been having contractions all day on Friday, Sept. 11, but nothing alarming enough to head to the hospital. She and her husband Kevin arranged to have her parents pick up her 2-year-old son Thor just in case.
Everything happened very suddenly after her water broke at 6:45 p.m. Just as she got to the door she felt the urge to push and realized she did not have much time.
“I asked my husband to remove our older son’s car seat from the car so I could go in the back seat and I also asked him for a towel,” Grandstaff said.
Her husband drove as fast as he could, trying to get to the medical center in time.
On Route 287 the baby’s head came out. But Lori Grandstaff could feel the baby was stuck.
When they got to the hospital, her husband stopped the car in front of the lobby and yelled for help.
“It felt like a scene from a movie! He opened the back door to check on me and saw the baby's head hanging out,” Lori Grandstaff said. Wilde, a firefighter for 20 years, had worked as a paramedic, but this was his first birth: He had been on many calls bringing a mother to the hospital while in labor or just afterwards.
When he got to the car, his training kicked in: “I figured out real quick what we had to do. Protect the mom. Whether it’s delivering a baby or putting out a fire or rescuing someone, all I thought was ‘We gotta get this done right now.’ I wasn’t going to hesitate to try and help out.”
Grandstaff said, “He came right to the back seat and told me to push where he realized the baby’s shoulder was stuck. I was nervous the shoulder would break or have to be broken in order to get out.”
Wilde said, “Mom was calm. She was doing all the work. Dad was calm, he was coaching her. Just as the nurses got out, that’s when the baby came. Boom! We had the baby delivered. Thirty seconds from then you could hear the baby crying. That’s an awesome sound, the best sound you’ll ever hear.”
The new mother checked the time on the car clock to document the baby’s time of birth: 7:22 p.m.
“My husband told me it was a boy and that he was OK. Then the baby's feet were gone and the nurses helped me out of the car and into a wheelchair.
“I remember looking around and asking for Kevin when a nurse informed me he had taken the baby (who I hadn’t seen yet) inside to get warm. I was shivering quite a bit myself since I lost a lot of fluids in a short amount of time. I glanced at the car, which looked a bit like a murder scene, and I did make sure I asked for Brian so I could put a face to the person who delivered my baby,” Grandstaff said. “I was then wheeled inside, where I was able to deliver the placenta and finally see and hold my healthy baby boy.”
Her doctor arrived shortly afterward.
Lori Grandstaff said they not only got “the miracle of a newborn baby, but also the miracle of people like Brian willing to carry out that miracle for complete strangers.”