Kentucky obstetrician Dr. Amanda Hess was only expecting to deliver one baby when she arrived at the hospital last week — her own.
But while she was in her room preparing to give birth to her second child, she realized that the woman in labor two doors down needed immediate attention because the baby’s heartbeat was dropping dangerously low. Knowing the on-call doctor was out of the building, Dr. Hess slipped some splash-proof boots over her flip-flops, walked to fellow patient Leah Halliday-Johnson’s room and delivered the baby.
“It was urgent that baby was delivered right away,” Hess tells PEOPLE. “Then I walked back and one hour later I started contractions.”
She gave birth to her own baby girl, Ellen Joyce, at 9:30 a.m. the next morning.
The excitement began on Sunday, July 23 after Dr. Hess, 38, checked into the hospital where she is on staff, Frankfort Regional Medical Center in Frankfort, Kentucky, and changed into a patient gown.
While waiting to begin the procedures to have her labor induced, she glanced at the computer screen in her room that alerts the medical staff to patients’ conditions and noticed that an unknown woman was having complications with her pregnancy.
The baby’s heartbeat kept falling precipitously during contractions, she says. At the same time, Dr. Hess’s husband heard screams of pain from down the hall.
“I heard nurses running down the hallway,” Hess says. “I said, ‘Do you guys need some help?'”
The on-call OB/GYN wasn’t in the building. He had just tended to a woman in the emergency room who had problems with her delivery and then left after nurses told him no patients were currently in the maternity wing, Hess says. But a few moments later, both Halliday-Johnson, 38, and Hess were admitted.
The other doctor was on his way back but still about 10 minutes away so nurses asked Halliday-Johnson to try not to push, Hess says. But the fetus had the umbilical cord loosely wrapped around her neck.
“I said, ‘We don’t have time for that,’ ” Hess recalls, and after covering her backside with another gown, left her room and went to Halliday-Johnson’s, and recognized her as one of her medical group’s patients.
Halliday-Johnson tells PEOPLE that she was only 1-cm. dilated when she checked into the hospital but an hour later her fourth child was arriving faster than expected.
“I was not being quiet about the fact that it was difficult for me not to push,” Halliday-Johnson says, adding that with no time for any pain medication, she let out a scream or two.
“She really wanted to push,” Hess says, so she gave the green light and delivered the healthy baby. The on-call doctor arrived shortly after and finished the delivery procedures.
Dr. Hess, in practice about seven years, says occasionally women deliver a baby in the hospital when a doctor can’t make it in time and in those cases, the nurses handle the birth. That’s likely what would have happened had Hess not been next door and willing to help.
But Dr. Hess didn’t mind at all, and afterward returned to her own room and started the medication to induce her own labor. Little Ellen, at 6 pounds, 12 ounces, arrived about 11 hours later, and joins sister Kate, 2.
“It was a perfect way to get my own labor started,” Hess says.