Baby Blues

Cranford Local 52 members get reacquainted with the parents of an infant they helped deliver

From left, Cranford Local 52 member James Knight, Noberto Chaves, baby Lucas Chaves, Gina Chaves and member Tom Bell.

Cranford Local 52 members Tom Bell and James Knight revisited the scene of a baby delivery on Jan. 14 — a delivery in which Bell untangled the umbilical cord that was wrapped around the baby’s neck, making him instrumental in bringing Lucas Chaves to life.

The two officers stood proudly for a photo with parents Gina and Noberto — along with baby Lucas — as they remembered the chaotic events of Dec. 20, when the baby was born.

“The whole delivery process felt like five to seven minutes,” Bell recalled. “You don’t hear about home deliveries too often, but baby Lucas had a unique start to his life. He’s got great parents, so I know he’s going to have a wonderful, happy life.”

Bell was first on the scene after county dispatchers relayed a 911 call about a stillbirth around 8:30 a.m. on a Sunday. He found the mother, Gina, hovering over the toilet bowl in the first-floor bathroom.

“Something is wrong,” she told him.

Bell asked Gina how far she was in the delivery process and whether she had been taking Lamaze lessons so that he could determine his next move. It turned out the baby was only crowning, meaning this wasn’t a stillbirth. He had the mother lie down on the bathroom floor and asked Noberto to bring pillows blankets and to keep her comfortable.

As Bell was preparing the mother for delivery, Knight arrived on the scene. Suddenly, the baby’s head and shoulders popped out.

“I could see at that point the umbilical cord was wrapped around its neck twice,” Bell noted. “I was able to support the head and shoulder with one hand and used the other hand to untangle the cord. When I got the cord untangled once, the rest was easy.”

Right around the time Bell freed the baby from the umbilical cord, the volunteer first aid squad arrived, but limited space in the bathroom prevented Bell from switching with the medics.

“For better or for worse, I was just in it,” Bell remarked.

Shortly after, the parents and officers were relieved to hear the baby cry as he fully emerged. The baby was wrapped in a clean blanket and given to Gina, then Bell was able to exit while the paramedics went in to finish cleaning up the baby, cut the umbilical cord and start the afterbirth process like taking vitals. At around 9:30 a.m., the officers cleared out of the home while the new mother and baby were taken to St. Barnabas Medical Center for evaluation.

This was Bell’s second time on the scene of a baby delivery, but his first time delivering the baby himself.

“It was a little surreal since the first time was just an assist. But this was all me from basically beginning to end,” Bell said. “I don’t think it really hit until I got home. I took a breath and it finally sank in, and I was like, ‘Wow, this really happened.’”

When Bell and Knight went back to the Chaves home, they were greeted by a gracious and appreciative Gina and Noberto. The parents even bought the officers lunch one day after the birth.

“[The delivery] certainly had its unique stress factors,” Bell said. “But a call like that where it turns out so well — that’s the aspect of the job you want to take home with you.”