Mississippi National Guard aviator saves mother, newborn baby’s life after Hurricane Ida – The Vicksburg Post


Maj.James Kevin Polk, a flight nurse assigned to the 183rd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, 172nd Airlift Wing, Mississippi National Guard, saved two lives in Bolton, Mississippi, in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.

In the wee hours of September 5, 2021, Dustin and Ashley Smith, evacuees from Lafitte, Louisiana, greeted a new baby girl in the tub of a friend’s house; then everything changed.

Most people are not surprised to hear that National Guard forces respond with support efforts that include engineers, aviation capabilities, military police, and communications support, but sometimes when we do least expect it, a hero emerges when you need it most. It’s exactly what happened to the Smith family when Polk delivered their baby and saved the lives of the mother and newborn.

The trip began on August 27, 2021, as the town of Lafitte, Louisiana braced for the wrath of Hurricane Ida. Ashley was expecting her fourth child and pondering the best course of action to safely evacuate her family while preparing to give birth during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ashley’s family is from Indiana and, anticipating a difficult race to reach them at 38 weeks pregnant, she realized she had to explore other options. It was then that a good friend, Brandi Arcement from Benateri, Louisiana, called and invited Ashley, Dustin, their three children and the family dog ​​to stay with her parents, Craig and Karry Degruise, of Bolton. The next day, the Smith family, along with Brandi and her children, arrived safe and sound at the Degruise family home to wait for the storm to end.

On August 29, Hurricane Ida made landfall in Port Fourchon, Louisiana as a Category 4 hurricane, just a few miles from where Hurricane Katrina left its mark exactly 16 years earlier. The storm devastated the Smiths’ hometown and caused severe damage to their home, leaving them in Mississippi. They were safe with friends and eagerly awaited the moment to safely welcome their new baby.

As a civilian, Polk is a surgical recovery room nurse at Baptist Hospital in Jackson, Mississippi, and a neighbor of the Degruise family in Bolton. On September 2, Karry invited Polk to visit Ashley and Dustin to answer questions, reassure, and discuss options for a birth plan in case she has a job. Ashley was considering a home birth due to her fears of COVID-19 and restrictions in an unknown hospital setting. It was his fear that the family would be separated or prevented from seeing each other due to the pandemic.

“I believe things happen for a reason,” Ashley said. “I am good friends with their daughter Brandi, and Karry and Craig made us feel like family. It was the best birthing experience my husband and I have had among our four children.

Ashley began labor on September 4th. She started timing her contractions a little after 11 a.m. pm and woke her husband at midnight to tell him that the contractions were coming faster – about two minutes apart. She woke up the foster family and explained that she didn’t think she would get to the hospital on time. Karry took action, called Polk and started the bathwater. Ashley’s plan included a birth in water.

“He [Polk] he just rolled up his sleeves and took action, ”Karry said. “He knew exactly what to do and got to work.”

Polk had experience with labor and delivery while on active duty as a nurse at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi. His pressurized medical experience while deployed to Iraq as an Air Force flight nurse prepared him for the events that occurred that day.

“My military training helped me stay calm,” Polk said. “My job as an Air Transport Critical Care Team (CCATT) nurse while deployed was the best job I have ever had in the military. There is no greater honor than to treat someone who protects our freedom. It is gratifying to know that you have made a difference.

Polk sat on the side of the tub and calmly spoke to Ashley throughout the birth. The work went quickly and at 12:30 a.m. Julia Lane Smith was born.

Ashley eagerly awaited the sound of her newborn baby girl’s first cry. When the baby was born, Polk immediately assessed his well-being without alarming the new parents. The baby’s color was blue and Polk was doing all he could to get the baby to breathe. He began to give her breaths and was able to stabilize the newborn.

“The baby took a little while to start breathing, probably because it was such a quick birth,” he said. “I started artificial respiration when she didn’t start breathing on her own. A clear airway is the most important thing after the baby is born. I covered the baby’s mouth and nose with my mouth and gave him three breaths. Then she started to breathe on her own.

Polk explained that everything was going according to plan after the baby started to breathe. They used a zipper to tighten the umbilical cord and kitchen scissors to cut the cord. He cleaned up everyone and let the new mom relax in the tub before trying to get her out.

Ashley stayed in the tub for about an hour to rest. When she tried to get out of the tub, she weakened, Polk explained.

“Ashley’s pulse was weak and racing. She started to turn blue and she passed out, ”Polk said. “She was sliding in the tub. Dustin grabbed her and held her as I gave her five rescue breaths. I remember saying before giving her the life-saving breaths, “I’m not trying to kiss you. Come on, you can do it. At first she did not respond. I was about to start CPR when Ashley came over and said, “I was just taking a nap.”

Polk stayed with the family for a while to watch over Ashley and her newborn baby. He continued to watch the Smith family over the next few days to make sure everyone was okay. During one of the follow-up visits with the family a few days later, Ashley shared her pre-birth fear with her.

“It was a wish of mine to have a home birth amid the COVID pandemic,” Ashley said. “Before the birth, I had the feeling and I was so scared that we couldn’t get out of this. Kevin showed up 100 percent. He was calm and at no time did I feel any stress or worry. He did a phenomenal job keeping me calm.

The Smiths and Degruises said they were extremely grateful for the exceptional result.

“There is no monetary value, enough gratitude or gifts that I can give Kevin, Karry and Craig to express how grateful my husband and I are for this whole experience. Angels were put in my way to help me in a situation that was crazy all around us, ”Ashley said.

Polk summed up his experience by saying, “Whenever you feel like you are part of saving a life… it’s the best feeling in the world.”

The Smith family is currently rebuilding their home due to damage from Hurricane Ida.

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