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Dispatchers truly deliver


How many people does it take to deliver a 5-pound, 11-ounce baby boy?

In the case of Conner Decker Henkel's birth last month, it took three Calaveras County Sheriff's dispatchers — one on the phone with Conner's father, Dan Decker, one on the phone with an ambulance crew and one who moonlights as an emergency medical technician for the Angels Camp Fire Department to cut the cord.

Conner's mother, Erica Henkel, knew within minutes of her first labor pains on Feb. 16 there was no way she and Decker would make the 30-minute drive to Sonora Community Hospital Birth Center for a hospital delivery.

"Other mothers who hear this are going to kill me, but from start to finish it took 40 minutes," Erica Henkel, 32, said. "He was crowning right away, and I knew we weren't going to make it. So I told Dan to call 911 and get an ambulance here right away."

Decker called 911. Raised on a farm and currently a ranch hand and construction worker, he has witnessed enough livestock births to know things were happening quickly.

"I took one look, and saw he was crowning and knew he was on his way," Decker said.

Dispatchers Jamie Smith and Nikohl Atkinson answered the 911 call at exactly the same time, 2:39 a.m. Smith, 20, who has never had children, volunteered to call an ambulance crew while Atkinson, 24, who has one child, stayed on the phone with Decker.

"The father was scared, but not panicky, and I immediately pulled up my cards so I could help him through the steps," Atkinson said, referring to detailed cards dispatchers can refer to in emergency situations.

An Angels Camp Police officer arrived at the couple's Angels Camp house first. But, Decker said, the officer took one look at was going on and said he would wait for the fire department, which was right behind him.

EMT Teresa Reid, 22, then walked in.

Reid, also a sheriff's dispatcher, usually works the graveyard shift, but traded her shift with Atkinson so she could attend a fireman's ball that night. When she returned from the ball, she reported to work for a shift at the Angels Camp Fire Department.

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