Kalona woman gives birth during snowstorm
The blizzard Tuesday night made travel next to impossible in the county. It was not the day Kalona couple Kyle Campbell and Chelsea Caddle wanted to have their baby. As luck would have it, Caddle went into labor that night. What ensued was a Herculean effort on the part of the Kalona Quick Responders, a couple of deputies and a tow truck to transport the couple to the Washington County Hospital in the middle of the worst storm in a generation. In the end, all that hard work paid off. On Wednesday morning, Caddle gave birth to a baby girl, which the couple named Brylee.
Washington County Reserve Deputy Ken Miller was on duty that afternoon. Miller, who lives just south of Kalona, was in charge of patrolling the northern half of the county. At 9 p.m. that night, he called his lieutenant to tell him he could no longer leave Kalona in his squad car, which is a front-wheel drive vehicle. Miller hopped in his personal four-wheel drive pickup and headed to Highway 218 to assist stranded motorists.
About an hour later, Miller learned that a Kalona woman was in labor. He dropped off the stranded motorists at the Riverside Casino and began his trek toward Kalona. The snow was coming down so fiercely that Miller drove at a “walking speed” on the highway.
“Sometimes I had to come to a complete stop,” he said. “I’m not exaggerating when I say it was like an apocalypse. It really freaked you out. You drove down the highway and there were vacant cars everywhere. In Kalona, you couldn’t drive down A Avenue or B Avenue because they were so full of abandoned cars.”
As Miller made his way to Kalona from Riverside, the Washington County Ambulance was dispatched to the scene. The ambulance barely made it out the door before it got stuck in the snow. The ambulance never made it to Kalona.
When Miller arrived at the scene in Kalona, he was greeted by the members of the Kalona Quick Responders. They loaded Caddle into a quick responder vehicle and transported her a few blocks to the Mercy Medical Clinic, which is not set up to handle births. They got a few medical supplies from the clinic but ultimately decided that Caddle must be taken to a hospital. Miller volunteered to take her in his pickup. Two Kalona Quick Responders, Chad Scarff and Claire Harapat, rode along to assist Caddle.
Miller said that going to Iowa City was not an option because the wind was from the north and the driving conditions would be even worse in that direction. They agreed to take Caddle to the Washington County Hospital.
“I only have a cab and a half,” said Miller, who added that he had to practically lean against his steering wheel to make room for the people in the backseat.
“I couldn’t see anything out the windshield,” he said. “We were hitting snowbanks the whole way. I tell them ‘hang on’ if I see a really high one coming up – one that’s higher than the hood. It’s hard to judge their height because you can’t see them until you’re right on top of them.”
What is going through Caddle’s mind at this time?
“I wasn’t concerned,” she said. “I knew I was in good hands.”
Caddle said she never told Miller to drive faster, even though she was in considerable discomfort. “I was watching the road along with Ken,” she said. “We were counting cars in the ditch along the way.”
Caddle had an IV in her arm and was covered with blankets. She said counting cars was a way to take her mind off the pain.
Harapat was impressed by the way Caddle handled the situation.
“She was awesome,” said Harapat. “She was calm and collected. I told her to let me know when she had a contraction. This was definitely not the way she planned to have her first baby.”
There was so much snow on the ground that the painted lines were fully covered and the road itself was almost invisible. Luckily, Miller had the presence of mind to bring along his GPS tracker from his squad car.
“When you have it zoomed in tightly enough, the directional arrow on the screen moves when you make a sudden jerk,” he said.
Miller held his GPS to the steering wheel, using it to navigate down Highway 1.
“Every light on the dashboard is going off,” said Miller. “I have no brakes. Everything is stuffed full of snow. Some drifts were so big the cab would go black. The snow engulfed it. It was just like you threw a tarp over it.”
Scarff commented, “It was horrible. The wind was blowing, and every time we hit a drift we were blinded for awhile.”
Miller had to stop the pickup four times to remove ice from the windshield wipers.
“Eventually, the wipers stopped working because they couldn’t take any more of it,” he said.
For the full story, see our Feb. 7 print edition.