Daniel “Peter” Matthews was barreling down highway 41 just before dawn trying to keep up with the ambulance carrying his former girlfriend who was in active labor when he lost sight of the red flashing lights. He sped up, rounded a corner and then saw the ambulance parked on the side of the road just before the North Fork turn off.
“I jumped out and yelled ‘What’s wrong?!’ I figured there’s either something wrong or the baby’s coming,” he described. “Thankfully it was the latter. The EMT Erin (Lehr) opened the door and said ‘Congratulations! It’s a girl.’”
Lillianna Temperance Grace Matthews made her entrance into the world at 5:28 a.m. on July 14, about 2 ½ hours after her mom, Courtney Johnson, recognized she was in labor.
Lillianna is Johnson’s fourth child and she came much easier and much faster than her siblings. “I had epidurals with all the others, but I really didn’t feel much pain with this one and it was pretty easy,” Johnson said from her hospital bed at Community Regional Medical Center. “Maybe because she’s the smallest,” she added about Lilliana who weighed 7 lbs., 6 oz. at birth.
Johnson and Lillianna were in good health but held overnight for observation since she was born outside the hospital. Ambulance drivers generally take high-risk deliveries to Community Regional which is the high risk pregnancy and birthing center for a five county area and has an 84-bed Level 3 neonatal intensive care unit for babies who need a higher level of care.
Johnson said she was counting on Matthews to take her to the hospital when it was time and they had even arranged a special code text – “Thundercats are go!” – to signal it was time. But Matthews said he was sound asleep when the first text came across asking him to get ready and snoring when the second text came, a meme of the Batman bat signal in the sky and the urgent plea: “Yo Batman, wake up!” He finally heard the beeps and saw the third text: “Thundercats are go!”
When Matthews didn’t respond immediately, Johnson decided she might have to take an ambulance to the hospital. The call to Johnson’s Oakhurst home was the last call of their shift for Sierra Ambulance Services’ paramedic Aaron McGruer and EMT Erin Lehr. And it was a first delivery for Lehr.
“Normally when we get these emergency calls and deliveries it’s scary because it’s a woman who hasn’t had prenatal care. But this was a couple who planned and had medical care but it just came a bit faster than they thought,” said Ed Guzman, general manager of Sierra Ambulance Service.
Erin Kennedy reported this story. Reach her at MedWatchToday@communitymedical.org