N.W.T. accountant turned 911 operator helps deliver baby over phone

It’s not every day that an accountant gets to play a role in delivering a stranger’s baby.

In her regular job, Yellowknife’s Morgan Gebauer manages lotteries in the Northwest Territories — but then came the COVID-19 pandemic. Gebauer’s job was seen as non-essential and in April, she was one of five territorial government employees who volunteered to take a secondment to the front lines as a dispatcher at the territory’s 911 call centre.

After a few weeks of training, Gebauer was teamed up with full-time dispatcher Danika Morin. Together, the two answer calls and dispatch emergency personnel over 12-hour shifts four days a week.

“There was quite a learning curve because I’m an accountant. I am not medically inclined in any way. I am numbers inclined,” Gebauer says.

One day in mid-May, Gebauer got the call few dispatchers ever get.

That baby was on a mission– Morgan Gebauer

“[This woman’s] partner called and said he needed help right away and that his partner was in labour,” Gebauer says. 

“And so you go through the basics of where are they, who they are, try to get a determination of who I need to send. As he’s walking through some of the basics I could hear this woman and she was clearly already at the pushing stage.”

The territorial government has withheld the location and identity of the caller for privacy reasons.

Gebauer says she put the man on hold for a minute so she could dispatch paramedics.

“When I came back onto the line he informed me that the baby had arrived.”

Gebauer’s priority then became walking the man through assessing the baby’s condition. Gebauer had a list in front of her of things the man needed to check. 

“For a newborn baby you need to make sure your baby’s breathing. You need to make sure that the cord is out of the way that it’s not going to obstruct breathing in any way,” Gebauer says.

“That baby was on a mission to arrive very quickly.”

‘Something very special’

Gebauer says only 12 minutes passed from the time she picked up the call to when the paramedics arrived. Twelve minutes, Gebauer says she’ll never forget.

Gebauer is the second dispatcher in the N.W.T. to help during a delivery since 911 went live last November. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio Canada)

“There’s something very special about hearing a baby’s first cry. I really hope that I was able to help provide them some sense of calm in what would seem like a stressful situation.There are people that are dispatchers for their entire career of 30 years and they never get to have that call. I definitely feel pretty honoured.”

When asked how she was able to keep her cool, Gebauer says she had the help of Morin, her mentor, the whole way through.

“She completely helped me through that call. I was the primary call taker but she was totally in the background. She was a little birdie in my ear making sure that I had all my bases covered.”

Gebauer is the second Yellowknife dispatcher to have a baby born during a call since 911 went live in the N.W.T. last November

“Nationally it is very rare to have such a high level of actual births per call volume,” 911 manager Ashley Geraghty told CBC in an email. “While quite a few 9-1-1 emergency dispatchers get active labour calls in the rest of Canada, rarely do they get to assist with an actual delivery (due to first responders arriving before the baby is born or the expectant mother arriving at a hospital).”

When asked if a career change may be coming, Gebauer says she doesn’t think so.

“This is great and this is a learning experience like I have never had in my life, but I’m still an accountant through and through.”

Read more at CBC.ca