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Mississippi Fire Chief Delivers Firefighter’s Baby

Kari, baby Camden and Steve Putman via The Clarion Ledger
Kari, baby Camden and Steve Putnam via The Clarion Ledger

By Ruth Ingram, Courtesy The Clarion Ledger

When a Madison firefighter’s wife didn’t look like she’d make it to the hospital in time to deliver their baby, who did the frantic dad call?

His chief, of course.

Steve Putnam, 31, said he and wife Kari, 25, attended the Christmas program of their 3-year-old daughter, Averi, at Kosciusko’s First Presbyterian Day School and Church Wednesday. “She was dressed in a gown, and she was singing,” her daddy said.

Their new baby was supposed to be induced today. But, “she started having strong contractions,” said Steve Putnam, a firefighter EMT.

Switch to Plan B. Quickly.

“Steve called the station (from about Pickens) about 12:30 p.m. and said, ‘Hey, I need some help. I don’t know if we’ll make it to the hospital,’ ” said interim Fire Chief Derrick Layton, who also is a paramedic. “We told him to keep driving, and we’d meet them in Canton.”

Why did Putnam elect to call his chief?

No brainer, he said. “I didn’t have an OB kit with me in my truck, and I know that often the firefighters get there quicker than the ambulance,” Putnam said. “I called them because he is a higher level of care than I am.”

On I-55, Putnam said, his wife’s water broke. When the Putnams pulled up to the Love’s truck stop in Canton, Layton and shift commander Dwayne Weeks were waiting.

“They came with sirens and met us,” Steve Putnam said. “They comforted her and checked her until the ambulance got there.”

Layton, Meeks and Putnam loaded Kari Putnam into the ambulance when it drove up. Layton got in with her, Steve Putnam followed in his car, and Meeks followed in Layton’s emergency fire vehicle.

Kari Putnam’s contractions were about two minutes apart.

“About Northside Drive, I called (Putnam) and said I thought we would make it,” Layton said.

But when the ambulance exited off I-55 at the Lakeland Drive intersection en route to St. Dominic Hospital, it was forced to slow for not one, but two red lights. At the same time, Kari Putnam’s contractions were reaching their speed limit.

Meeks “turned on his lights to let people know we had a convoy,” Putnam said. Layton told the ambulance to break out the sirens and head straight to the emergency room ramp.

Plan C went into effect.

“They only made it to the loading dock,” Putnam said. “They didn’t make it out of the ambulance before the baby was born.”

Baby Camden, 7 pounds, 12 ounces, was delivered by Layton – his third career assist.

All the while, Putnam said, “Kari was a trooper. She hung in there, and she told them she had to push. She said she felt very confident that someone we knew was right there to help, and that he wasn’t a stranger.”

When he and the Putnams got into the emergency room, Layton said, staff asked him what time Camden had made it official. “I didn’t look at my watch,” Layton said.

“Kari was on the stretcher, and they were checking the baby out, counting his fingers and toes,” Putnam said. “Then, they let her hold the baby, and they moved us to the room.”

Just before 5, Putnam waited for Camden to be brought to Kari, along with Averi, who was in the loving hands of a family friend. “She should be here shortly to see her baby brother,” Putnam said.

From rapid contractions to baby arrival, the adventure spanned 90 minutes to two hours.

“We’re blessed,” Putnam said. “We were honored to have my fire chief deliver our child.”

Written by First Arriving


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