Baby born during blizzard at Medina is first in over a decade at local hospital

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 27 December 2022 at 4:09 pm

MEDINA – Western New York’s Christmas blizzard is one that won’t be forgotten by many people, especially Medina Fire Department personnel, staff at Medina Memorial Hospital and one Medina family.

Medina Fire Chief Matt Jackson shared one of his department’s most heroic rescues on the department’s Facebook page.

He describes how the storm started on Dec. 23 and increased in vengeance overnight. The crew kept the department clear of snow, and continued to respond to emergencies. In his words, here is what transpired in the early morning hours of Christmas Eve:

“One of these emergencies was for a woman in labor, with contractions only minutes apart. With zero visibility and up to seven-foot snowdrifts in the middle of the roads, this crew determined it was unsafe and next to impossible to transport to a hospital with an OB unit,” Jackson wrote. “After consulting with the professionals at Medina Memorial Hospital, it was determined the best thing was to transport the woman there, where the knowledge and experience of their staff would take over. A short time later, a baby was born and both baby and mama were happy and healthy.”

This is the first baby born at Medina Memorial Hospital in more than 10 years.

In a phone call to the fire hall today, Captain Jonathan Higgins explained the father, with their three children in the back seat, was taking his wife to United Memorial Hospital, when they got stuck in a snow bank on Route 63 in Shelby. After getting the mother to Medina hospital, Higgins and a crew returned to the van and rescued the rest of the family, taking them all to the hospital.

Shortly after that, before dawn, another crew responded to a call and needed a plow to escort them to the scene. There was no way the ambulance would have made it without that plow escort, due to the size of the drifts building up in the streets and roads.

“After conferring with the director of Emergency Management before sunrise, we knew that a storm of this magnitude had the potential for serious and even deadly consequences,” Jackson said about Justin Niederhofer, EMO director. “His coordination and communication with all county entities played an important role in getting out of this thing unscathed. After navigating the streets in the village, I began to wonder if we would even be able to respond anymore without getting stuck and needing to abandon our vehicles. Fortunately, due to the dedication of the members of our team, we were able to continue responding throughout the day as needed.”

Around noon on Dec. 24, a county-wide driving ban was put into place. The only people who should have been on the roads were essential workers, Jackson said. Even in this case, he said many public safety and nursing staff were unable to get to and from work because travel was unsafe. Many people were stranded in the village and some at the Comfort Inn in Medina.

The fire department transported some of the workers to the hospital and nursing homes to ensure they had adequate staffing, Jackson said.

He commended a local woman and her daughter who offered to stay in a warming center at Oak Orchard Elementary School and was there for hours. Another village resident volunteered for multiple hours to oversee the warming center, so the mother and daughter could go home to check things there.

Jackson praised the concern of the mayor, Mike Sidari, and the firefighters and police officers who slept overnight at the firehouse to make sure the next shifts were covered.

“I am grateful and proud of our fire department and I am thankful for every agency and every person who stepped up during these 48 hours that we will all remember,” Jackson said.

During that 48-hour period, during which Medina recorded 15.4 inches of snow, 54-mile per hour winds, zero visibility and sub-zero wind chills, the Medina Fire Department crews handled 58 recorded calls for service, which does not include well over 200 check welfare and civilian assist calls.

Captain Higgins added his gratitude to fellow first responders and hospital staff, who worked throughout the whole storm.

“This was some of the worse weather I’ve ever seen,” Higgins said.