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'Blizzy' just wouldn't wait

By Claire Bessette

Publication: theday.com

Published February 09. 2013 3:00PM   Updated February 12. 2013 7:15PM
After nail-biting ride to Backus, woman gives birth in ambulance

"Blizzy" will have a great story to tell when people ask her how she got her nickname.

But until she can talk, her parents will have to tell the tale.

Elizabeth Judy Ambrosia, weighing 7 pounds, 4 ounces, was born at 8:35 p.m. Friday in the ambulance parked in the arrival bay at The William W. Backus Hospital. Her nickname was going to be Lizzy, her dad, James Ambrosia, said, but "I think I'm going to call her Blizzy."

"She has a mind of her own," her mother Donna Ambrosia said.

Donna, 39, of Colchester, was having labor contractions Thursday, and James, 42, drove them to St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford, where they had planned to deliver Elizabeth. But Donna's contractions abated and the hospital sent them home. She wasn't due for another two weeks.

Friday night, during the height of the blizzard that brought about 30 inches of snow to Colchester, Donna's contractions returned with a fury. After he quickly put a thought out of his head that he could drive his pickup truck to St. Francis, James called 911 at 7:40 p.m.

Dispatcher Kevin McManus called Colchester Hayward Fire Department, and the ambulance arrived within five minutes.

A state Department of Transportation plow provided a much-needed escort, pushing more than a foot of snow as the ambulance, driven by Royce Knowles, crawled at 20 mph down Route 2 toward Backus. Ambulance nurse Debbie Marvin was a neonatal specialist, and, it turned out, a grade-school friend of Donna's.

A paramedic from the Middlesex Hospital Marlborough clinic couldn't make it, so McManus called for a paramedic from American Ambulance to intercept the ambulance somewhere along the route and join the crew.

The ambulance crew called Dr. Kyle McClaine, emergency medicine physician at Backus, with updates and he planned to meet the ambulance as soon as it arrived.

"It took us 45 minutes to get from Colchester to Backus," James said Saturday from his wife's hospital room. "Usually you can make that trip in 15 minutes. The driver was phenomenal. He couldn't go more than 20 miles per hour. We saw tractor trailers jackknifed off the road, accidents. There's no way I could have made it. She was screaming."

Both parents said the ambulance crew made them feel confident they would both make it to the hospital and that Elizabeth would be born safely.

"They were absolutely phenomenal," James said. "They were calm and did a great job driving."

To all their surprise, the ambulance made it to Backus, but when Dr. McClaine raced to the ambulance, he knew that Elizabeth wouldn't wait to be transported to a birthing room in the maternity wing.

"It's rare that we get such precipitous moment," McClaine, a 13-year Backus veteran, said. "In the back of your mind, when you have a snowstorm, you wonder if you're going to deliver a baby."

The family hopes to return home to Colchester today. Because of the flu threat, Elizabeth's older siblings were not allowed to visit her at Backus.

The Ambrosias have five children at home, ranging in age from 9 to 14. Two are Donna's and three are James' children from previous relationships. The couple met because their youngest children, both age 9, have been friends since they were 3, Donna said.

Dr. McClaine called Donna "a seasoned pro" who helped the medical crew feel confident that everything would turn out right.

"It was a great effort by everyone involved," McClaine said. "The ambulance crew was outstanding. It was a nice set of circumstances."

c.bessette@theday.com

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