Baby delivery a first for longtime New London dispatcher
New London — Even after two decades in the business, a city dispatcher experienced a first Thursday when he talked a couple through delivering a baby boy.
Rich Waselik was more than five hours into his midnight shift when a man who had pulled over on Huntington Street called 911 around 4:15 a.m.
“I think he said, ‘My wife’s having a baby,’ or something like that,” said Waselik, who has been a city dispatcher for 16 years and worked at other departments for five years before that.
Fire Chief Tom Curcio said the man and his wife were driving to the William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich, where their OB-GYN works, when they realized they were out of time.
Waselik said he first asked the man for his location in case the call got disconnected. Then he began giving instructions.
Waselik said the dispatchers have cheat sheets “for almost any possible thing you might be able to come up with.”
“In case you go brain dead in the heat of the moment, you know?” he said.
But Waselik also is an emergency medical technician and volunteer firefighter with the Oakdale Fire Department. Though he has never delivered a baby while on duty, he has learned the process.
“I varied on the (cheat sheet’s) wording a little bit,” he said. “I pictured it in my head and explained it the best I could.”
The husband “was amazingly calm for what was going on,” Waselik said.
Curcio said the man successfully delivered the baby in the front seat of the van he had been driving. Firefighters from the North Station on Broad Street arrived within three minutes of the delivery, cutting the baby’s umbilical cord and making sure its airway was clear. They then took the family to Lawrence + Memorial Hospital.
L+M spokesman Michael O’Farrell said the family didn’t wish to be interviewed.
“As far as I know, all is well,” Curcio said. “It was a great job by all.”
Waselik said the significance of his six-minute conversation didn’t hit him until his partner dispatcher said something like, “Oh my god, that was just a baby delivery.”
“I didn’t really think about it,” said Waselik, who hadn't before talked someone through an active delivery. “You just do your job.”
Coffee in hand, Waselik was back at work Thursday by 11 a.m., just four hours after his midnight shift had ended. He was called in to work half a day shift and half a night shift and would be finished at 11 p.m., he said.
“I don’t know any other schedule,” he said. “I honestly have been doing this since high school. I’ve never worked a 9 to 5, Monday through Friday, vacations off kind of job.”
“I like feeling like I can be actually helpful versus just taking bad calls all the time,” he said. “You can do something that actually benefits somebody.”
Asked what it was like being in the limelight rather than behind the scenes, Waselik had one word: “Awkward.”
In a Facebook post, he thanked everyone who had recognized him for his efforts. He named his partner dispatcher and the firefighters who responded and said they also deserve recognition.
"I think everyone deserves credit,” he said.
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