Houston Neighbors Form Human Chain to Help Pregnant Woman in Labor Wade Through Floodwaters: 'We Were Stuck'
"I expected there would be five or six inches that I could drive through," Greg Smith tells PEOPLE. "I woke up to two or three feet."
When Greg Smith saw the rising floodwaters outside his Houston apartment on Sunday, he knew instantly that his pregnant wife Andrea Smith would go into labor that day. He did not, however, know that a dump truck would rescue his family while his wife was about to give birth.
Greg and his wife, both doctors, arrived in Houston in late July to do advanced medical training in their respective specialities. Greg is a pediatric anesthesiologist and Andrea specializes in geriatrics.
“We’re very new to Houston — and new to hurricanes,” Greg tells PEOPLE. But hurricane-savvy neighbors and co-workers agreed that the couple had a good plan in place for the birth of their first child, including a backup plan to go early to the hospital in order to avoid problems.
Both parents were very much looking forward to the baby’s arrival.
“We had two miscarriages before this,” Greg says. “We’ve always wanted a little baby.”
When Andrea didn’t get pregnant after her last miscarriage, the couple turned to faith for guidance.
“We felt like we had to surrender this to God,” Greg says. “Everything about this pregnancy is God’s will.”
Andrea had been experiencing serious contractions for weeks, and as the expected due date approached, the contractions continued.
Keeping a close eye on the weather, Greg decided that in light of the approaching storm, he would drive his wife to the hospital on Sunday morning. On Saturday night, the weather was mild with only light rains and no accumulation.
“I expected there would be five or six inches that I could drive through,” Greg says. “I woke up to two or three feet.”
Greg and Andrea took a quick survey of their surroundings.
“We soon realized, we were kind of stuck,” Greg says.
Greg’s mother, Sue Chor, already was on hand from Montana, to help the new parents.
“Within a couple hours I noticed Annie having real good contractions,” Chor tells PEOPLE.
The baby was fast on the way. So were more floodwaters.
A desperate Greg called 911.
“It kept kicking us off the line,” he says. “I couldn’t get through.”
When the line finally connected, no one answered the call.
“I put it on speaker phone to wait for someone to answer,” he says.
No one did.
Chor called the Coast Guard. She, too, could not get through. Chor finally reached the National Guard, only to learn that the troops would not arrive quickly enough. They realized they were trapped.
“I knew I would have to do this myself,” Greg says.
He was worried; he was not trained in obstetrics.
“I had some courage, though,” he says. “Even if I had to do a home birth, I felt like it was going to be okay.”
The couple began to prepare for a home birth. It would be primitive, they knew; neither of the doctor-parents kept medical supplies in the apartment.
As it happens, the apartment complex is home to many medical professionals who work at the nearby Texas Medical Center. A neighbor sent out a call for help on a community message board.
In short order, doctors, nurses and EMTs arrived at the door with sutures, scissors and other supplies.
The grandmother-to-be dashed to the kitchen.
“I boiled water over the stove,” Chor says. “I put the instruments in water, and put them out on a fresh paper towel to cool.”
Meanwhile, Greg contacted an out-of-town obstetrician-friend, who volunteered to coach the family through the birth via Skype or FaceTime.
“I was sterilizing instruments and preparing the room, and they were making a plan,” Chor says. “My son was cool, calm and collected. He was ready to deliver his child.”
Concerned neighbors kept watch on the floodwaters, and soon decided to move the delivery room to higher ground. A second-floor neighbor volunteered her apartment. Chor and others raced upstairs to prepare the newly-appointed delivery suite.
Unbeknownst to the Smiths, someone had contacted someone whose father lived across the street from a fire station. That man walked out into the deluge and told the firefighters about the entrapped family.
At some point, the neighbors spotted what appeared to be a large garbage truck outside. Greg ran out into the rain to flag down the truck.
“They said, ‘We’re here for you,’ ” an amazed-sounding Greg tells PEOPLE.
“The next thing I know, there’s a ride for Annie and Greg,” Chor says. “They grabbed their coats and umbrellas and the baby’s bags. Then off they went.”
Chor stood holding the family dog, who cried while the scene unfolded.
A human chain helped the laboring Annie wade through waist-high water and into the truck. Neighbor Callie Hatcher tweeted a video of the rescue.
The images show a drenched Andrea slogging her way through high water, along the human chain and into the truck bed. Greg follows behind her.
“We were soaked,” Greg says. “We sat on top of all these fire hoses, while firemen drove us to the hospital. They were careful to go slow and keep us safe.”
The new grandmother stayed behind with the family dog.
“I wanted so bad to be on that dump truck,” Chor says. “They were whisked away before I knew it.”
The laboring mom and her husband arrived at the hospital, where they were offered dry clothes and a real delivery room.
At 1:59 a.m. on Monday, baby Adrielle came into the world.
The newborn was healthy, but had some issues that placed her in the intensive care unit.
“If she were born at home, that wouldn’t have been the best place for her,” Greg says. “I’m so glad she is in the hospital.”
He adds: “Everything about this pregnancy we said is God’s will. That’s why her name is Adrielle. It means she belongs to God.”
The family is filled with gratitude for all the helpers who rallied for the Houston newcomers.
Says Chor: “Everyone was amazing. They were absolutely amazing.”
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