La Casa Staff Delivers Baby at Shelter

Diana M. Alba
July 11, 2011

LAS CRUCES – Two employees at a Las Cruces domestic violence shelter were handed an out-of-the-ordinary, surprise task last week, when an unborn baby decided it was time to enter the world.

A shelter client – whose identity is being withheld for security concerns – went into labor around 5:15 a.m. on Thursday, said Theresa Armendariz, director at La Casa domestic violence shelter.

The two personnel on duty at the time immediately called 911, but the infant wouldn’t wait.

In a span of 10 minutes, the baby – a girl – was born, before emergency responders arrived.

How to deliver a baby isn’t part of staff training at the shelter, but 911 call center staff provided instructions, Armendariz said.

“They really just relied on the 911 operator to help walk them through it,” she said.

The mother and baby were taken to a local hospital but have since been released.

“Everybody was healthy,” she said. “There are no problems at all, except the staff was not expecting that.”

Indeed, the employee speaking to the call center was anxious, but one of the main goals of 911 operators is to keep people in those kind of situations as calm as possible, so they can focus on a given problem at hand, said Albert Flores, quality assurance specialist at the Mesilla Valley Regional Dispatch Authority. Included in the standard training for dispatch personnel is how to coach a delivery over the phone, he said.

“I reviewed the call, and the operator did really well on it,” he said. “He followed all the protocols we use. It was to the ‘T’, and he did a very good job of calming her down.” The fire department arrived fairly soon after the birth, Flores said.

The 911 center often fields emergency calls related to women about to give birth, but not many babies are delivered before EMS personnel arrive, Flores said. On average, it’s about two to three times a year that an operator helps out with a birth.

Anyone in that situation should call 911, Flores said.

Armendariz declined to specify details about the baby, such as the weight and height.

Donations sought

Armendariz she doesn’t recall any babies being been born at the shelter during her nine years working at the facility.

Though healthy, the new mother “has nothing” for the baby and needs donations, including a crib, car seat, stroller, towels, diapers, clothes and linens, according to a brief notice sent out by the shelter. So, the nonprofit is seeking donations for the pair.

Plus, Armendariz said, the shelter is in constant need of infant-related items. While babies aren’t typically born at the facility, they’re often residents.

Prior to February, the shelter could house up to 60 people, Armendariz said. But a severe freeze caused pipes to break and flood some of the rooms, which are still being repaired.

“We have 18 rooms, and normally we have 26,” she said. “A lot of our furniture was damaged. We’re soliciting donations to help us replace beds and dressers – anything that was sitting on the floor was ruined.”

Donations can be dropped off around the clock at the shelter, 800 S. Walnut St., Las Cruces, but the facility prefers they be taken between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays.