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'The most emotional and frightening moments of my life'... Northern Ireland woman who works on Covid-19 ward delivers baby in hospital car park


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Colette McAlinden with a work colleague

Colette McAlinden with a work colleague

Colette McAlinden with a work colleague

A Northern Ireland grandmother has told how her 'adrenaline took over' when she found herself delivering a baby in a hospital car park on her lunch hour.

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Colette McAlinden with her daughter Jenny and her granddaughter Miley

Colette McAlinden with her daughter Jenny and her granddaughter Miley

Colette McAlinden with her daughter Jenny and her granddaughter Miley

Colette McAlinden (56) works as a ward assistant on a Covid-19 floor at Craigavon Area Hospital.

On Sunday afternoon, while taking a break, she found herself at the centre of a life or death delivery drama.

She recalled being alerted by a loud noise, before rushing to find a woman about to give birth, saying it was the most emotional ­- and frightening ­- experience of her life.

Colette, mother-of-two and a grandmother-of-eight from Lurgan, helped to safely deliver the little girl, before returning to work. Explaining what happened, she said: "On Sunday afternoon I was on my lunch hour, reading a book in my car.

"I thought I could hear someone yelling in the background. I thought it was kids messing around.

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Colette McAlinden with her grandchildren

Colette McAlinden with her grandchildren

Colette McAlinden with her grandchildren

"After a few minutes I got out of my car and I saw this man running towards me waving his hands and shouting 'my baby'.

"I went towards him and saw that there was a lady in the front of his small van, very heavily pregnant, crying and in pain.

"I'm only a ward assistant, I have no medical training at all.

"We were right beside where the ambulances parked their vans. So I told the dad to run there and get help and I rang 999. The mum was telling me that the baby was coming."

Colette told the 999 operator that she did not know what to do. Recalling what happened, she added: "She told me to first of all keep calm.

"She told me to get inside the van with the lady and get her undressed from the waist down. So I did that and put her in a laying flat position. There was a lever at the side of the car and I pressed that and Mum flew back and I was apologising to her.

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Colette McAlinden in PPE (sitting)

Colette McAlinden in PPE (sitting)

Colette McAlinden in PPE (sitting)

"She told me that the baby was coming right now.

"The ambulance dispatcher was telling me to look out for the baby's head and I could see it.

"In the meantime dad was still looking for help. There wasn't a single person in the car park.

"I was calling out for help too while trying to keep mum calm.

"I was telling her that everything was going to be fine. I think that because I was wearing scrubs, because I work in a Covid-19 ward, that she thought I was a medical person and that gave her reassurance.

"And I wasn't, in the middle of all this, going to tell her that I was only a domestic."

Colette said the next few minutes were the most emotional and frightening of her life.

"I could see the baby's head and the ambulance dispatcher told me that the baby was ready to arrive," she added.

"The dispatcher told me to tell mum to push on the next contraction, and she did and the little girl was born into my hands.

"But the baby did not look a good colour and was not breathing.

"The umbilical cord was around the baby's neck. I told the dispatcher I was scared and she told me calmly to rotate the baby out of the umbilical cord and then check her airways, that I could do it. My heart was in my mouth.

"I was so frightened and at that precise moment the ambulance just appeared and the paramedics took over.

"I stood back and they worked with mum and the baby as myself and dad stood there for a few seconds. I was covered in blood and I think I was in shock.

"And then we heard the best sound ever, that little baby girl crying. It was so emotional. I'll never forget that sound until the day I die."

Colette added: "Everyone was happy and I hugged the husband and went to the car and hugged the mum. I told her everything is fine now and I needed to get back to work, that I was late."

Before she left work she rang the maternity ward and was told mum and baby were doing well.

It is not the first time a McAlinden hero was called into action. A year and a half ago, Colette's son Stephen delivered his own baby daughter in the family bathroom.

"My son's fiancee was at home, eight and a half months pregnant and didn't feel too well," she said. "He was on a building site about a mile away and rushed home just in time to deliver his baby daughter Klodagh on their bathroom floor.

"I rang him on Sunday after I left work. I was still shaking. I told him what happened and he said we needed to start up a family business delivering babies!"

Belfast Telegraph