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Trip down the canyon too long for newborn

Nan Chalat Noaker, The Park Record
Angela and Jeff Heinemann relax at the hospital with their new baby after an unexpected roadside delivery. Photo courtesy of the Heinemann family
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In the predawn hours Thursday morning, as his wife became more uncomfortable, Jeff Heinemann of Jeremy Ranch decided to get some expert advice. While Angela waffled about whether it was time to head to the University of Utah Medical Center to deliver their second child, he did the math and called the obstetrics department. Her contractions were rapidly becoming more frequent and, as he expected, the hospital suggested they get in the car, immediately.

But according to Angela, first they needed to call a neighbor to take care of their 16-month-old, Andrew. As Jeff recalls, the neighbor asked whether she had time to change clothes or should just come in her PJs. Jeff encouraged her to come as quickly as possible.

They jumped into their Jeep Cherokee at around 2 a.m. and headed toward Salt Lake City. But just eight minutes later, Angela said, "I told Jeff, ‘I don’t think I am going to make it.’" In fact, she could feel the baby’s head emerging.

Jeff made the split second decision that every dad dreads. "I looked up and pulled straight off the freeway."

It happened to be the Mountain Dell exit and there was a small graveled area next to a stop sign. "It was dark and really cold," Angela remembers.

"I called 9-1-1, put it on speaker phone and ran around to the other side of the car," he said.

"I was scared, I was nervous, but I wanted to stay calm," he said.

A practicing anesthesiologist, Jeff is familiar with medical procedures but readily admits, "I am not an expert at delivering babies."

"I was so relieved when I held him and he was moving and then he began crying."

For her part, Angela, a Ph. D. candidate in exercise and sports science at the University of Utah, also kept her cool.

Following instructions from the dispatcher, Jeff handed Angela his shoe. She removed the lace and they tied off the umbilical cord. "It’s kind of funny; I even tied it in a neat little bow," said Angela.

A few minutes later an ambulance and a fire truck arrived from Olympus Cove and the Heinemanns, along with their healthy newborn, headed to the University Medical Center.

Monday, the Heinemanns were back home in Jeremy Ranch with a family story that will likely be told for generations.

"We are so thankful that Matthew is healthy and it all turned out fine," said Jeff.


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