When baby is born early and breech on freeway, dad makes right moves

GRAND RAPIDS, MI — When Hannah Pluchinsky began having labor pains, she and husband Kaleb were confident they would make it to Metro Health hospital in time.

Her confidence quickly disappeared when her water broke in their car traveling on I-96.

Hannah told Kaleb to pull over along the freeway, west of Plainfield Avenue, at 2:30 a.m. April 1.

“Ten to 15 seconds after her water broke, the baby was coming,” Kaleb Pluchinsky said.

It was six weeks before the expected birth date.

The young father doesn’t recall all the details of what happened next, except for running around to the passenger side and seeing the baby’s feet already emerging. However, by the end of those frantic moments, the couple had a new passenger inside the car with them.

“I can’t even describe what was going through my head at the moment, because I was just so focused on the moment. I knew that she had to come out. And when I saw feet, my heart just sank,” he said.

Kaleb was able to give the baby a little “twist and tug” to straighten her small body and he delivered baby Sophia in the front passenger seat. Now, after spending more than two weeks at Mercy Health St. Mary’s hospital to gain strength and overcome breathing obstacles, she’s home with her parents.

The young couple say they’ll never forget the harrowing moments surrounding her birth.

“It was 2:30 in the morning. There was no one on the road. It was dark and cold. It was very scary,” Hannah said.

Once Sophia was born, Kaleb placed the baby on his wife’s chest but she didn’t appear to be breathing and wasn’t making any noise. Her skin was gray.

Kaleb got back into the driver’s seat and raced north on U.S. 131. They called 911 on the way and the dispatcher gave them instructions on how to get to the nearest hospital.

It turned out to be Mercy Health St. Mary’s, although they originally planned to have the baby at Metro Health. The dispatcher also told them how to help Sophia.

“By the time we got there, there was probably like 10 to 12 doctors waiting for us outside,” he said.

The medical staff immediately began working on the baby. After some anxious moments, Sophia showed positive signs.

“Once we heard her cry, it was just this relief of ‘there it is,’” Hannah said.

Sophia is Kaleb Pluchinsky’s first child, and his wife’s third.

Dr. Alysha Kirkwood, an obstetrics and gynecology specialist, was at the hospital when the couple rushed in. She cared for Hannah and the newborn.

Kirkwood said only about 4 percent of babies are breech and it typically is a more difficult birth. Often, they are done by C-section.

“It’s definitely a more complicated delivery. It sounds like this baby was coming no matter what, but it would probably be very scary for somebody who is not used to doing deliveries,” she said.

“In a pre-term baby, we worry more about the head getting stuck,” she said. “I’m glad it all went well for them.”

Kirkwood and the medical staff at Mercy Health St. Mary’s did their best to comfort and reassure the parents. She said having a baby on the side of the road undoubtedly was “traumatic” for the couple.

In retrospect, Kaleb Pluchinsky said he’s not sure how he was able to deliver the baby as well as he did.

“Never would I have thought I would be delivering a baby on the side of the road. I’ve had many doctors and nurses just come up to me and ask me if I’ve had any medical training at all. I say ‘no, this is the most I’ve ever done.’”

The couple now is enjoying spending time with their daughter.

“She is very animated for a baby. She knows what she wants,” Hannah said.

Because the birth happened in the car with the associated body fluids, the couple would need to spend several thousand dollars to have it cleaned by a biohazard company. Their car likely isn’t worth the expense, they said.

A GoFundMe page has been established to help the couple raise money for a used car.

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