Keyana McIntyre was planning to have her baby in a Wilmington, North Carolina, hospital, 25 minutes from Currie, the rural town where she lives. But when she went into labor on September 21, many of the roads were still impassable because of Hurricane Florence.
“I went to the hospital near our house in Pender County and it was closed. They told me to go to the Family Dollar parking lot,” McIntyre tells PEOPLE.
The 25-year-old first-time mom, who was 41 weeks pregnant, was in labor and in a panic.
“It was really scary. By the time I got there, I could feel the head,” she says.
That hospital parking lot had been turned into a fully-equipped mobile hospital thanks to what’s called Carolinas MED-1. The Charlotte-based mobile medicine unit includes two makeshift operating rooms and space for treating 14 critical care patients.
The mobile hospital — along with 35 doctors and nurses — arrived in Pender County not long after the hurricane came ashore, and it has helped care for more than 400 patients. Late last week, they delivered McIntyre’s baby.
When McIntyre arrived, Dr. Andrew Godfrey, an emergency room physician at Atrium Health in Charlotte, quickly checked her out.
“I could feel the baby’s head. Keyana was completely dilated. I knew there was no way we could safely transport her. At that point we said, ’Okay, were gonna deliver her here,’ ” says Dr. Godfrey.
The 33-year-old doctor has delivered more than 30 babies as part of his ER work, but he’d never been through the entire labor process. He was honest with his patient and his team.
“We were all nervous together,” McIntyre tells PEOPLE.
Godfrey says he was concerned about any potential problems that could crop up and after McIntyre was in labor for several hours, he decided to call for backup – asking the highway patrol to send a helicopter for a local OBGYN.
“Four or five minutes after the doctor texted me that they had lifted off, Avah was born,” says Godfrey.
Keyana gave birth to a healthy baby girl, weighing 6 pounds 9 ounces.
She and her boyfriend had planned on naming her Avah Jade, but made a last minute change. Her middle name is “Storm.”
“When she’s older, I’ll tell her the whole story. Since she came during the storm, there’s a lot more meaning, there’s a pretty good story behind her name,” says McIntyre.
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Mom and baby were flown to a hospital outside the hurricane zone for two days but couldn’t wait to come back to thank the Med-1 crew.
“I’ve been thinking about them ever since I gave birth and I wanted to tell them thank you again,” she says. “They took care of us. Because of them I had a safe birth.”
Godfrey was already on the road home to Charlotte so the two FacetTimed and plan to keep in touch.
Godfrey tells PEOPLE, “It was extremely gratifying. Delivering a baby in MED-1 is kind of like you always prepare for it and say wouldn’t it be cool… and to actually do it and help somebody through it and work together as a team and have such a good outcome – it’s probably the greatest moment of my career so far.
“Actually, it’s just the greatest moment, period.”