Thanks to Elyce Rivera's calm manner, baby Elizabeth made her way safely into the world.
When Charlotte Fatoma found herself on Interstate 476 alone, about to give birth, she was understandably panicked.
Fatoma, from Philadelphia, was actually in the middle of her working day as a nurse at an assisted living facility. As the mom-of-two went into labor, she thought she could get herself to the hospital on time, but her little baby girl had other plans!
While Fatoma drove herself to the hospital, her labor started progressing quickly, and with the traffic at a standstill, Fatoma realized she wasn’t going to make it to the hospital on time. So she pulled to the side of the highway and called 911 for assistance. Elyce Rivera came on the line. She had only been on the job for a month and had never helped a woman deliver a baby by telephone.
“When that call came in, I thought she was in a car accident because she was panicking and she was scared,” Rivera explained to Today.
Keeping things calm
“She’s just screaming. So what I told Charlotte was that everything that she’s feeling, her baby is feeling. And I didn’t want her baby to go into distress, so that’s why I kept telling her, ‘Just take deep breaths,’” Rivera shared.
For Fatoma, things were getting more and more stressful, as she explained: “Contractions were coming now two minutes apart, and it was to a point that I couldn’t bear it anymore. And she was very calm. So that kept me calm.”
Among the chaos, Rivera instructed Fatoma to get into the optimal birthing position in her car in preparation for the arrival of her speedy baby.
Soon after, Elizabeth Elyce — named for the operator — made her way into the world. “I felt very happy. I felt very emotional. So I had to lift my mic up. My eyes got watery,” Rivera shared of the unusual birth.
For Fatoma, Rivera’s calm guidance saved the day, as she explained:
“Elyce, the 911 operator, she is an angel in disguise. She was wonderful. She treated me so kind.”
To show her gratitude, Fatoma didn’t just name her daughter after the 911 operator, she also asked her to be her godmother, an honor that will impact their lives forever. As she pointed out: “We started up as strangers and now we’re connected forever.”