The frenzy of the banging on the door and ringing of the bell jarred EMT Vincent Hartmann. It was about 5:30 a.m. Saturday and he was alone on duty at the East Brentwood Fire Department, watching the news.
When he opened the door, Hartmann found a woman standing in a hard snowfall, clearly in distress and pain, crying out that she was having a baby.
Coming inside she explained that she'd called a cab but it never came. So she walked down the block from her Brentwood home to the firehouse, he said.
Hartmann, 29, said he activated the 911 alarm that alerted his colleagues to the emergency. This time, though, he gave the address of the call at 26 Fulton St.—their own firehouse. This time the emergency had come to them.
Hartmann, an EMT for 10 years, knew he had to calm her down.
"She was very nervous, scared and anxious," he said. "She was yelling—not at me—but to get her concern across."
Some quick questions made it clear there was no time to take the woman to the hospital. Her contractions were three minutes apart, he said. And then her water broke.
"This was going to be it," Hartmann said.
He moved the woman, about 30 years old, into an ambulance parked in the firehouse. It's where they have their equipment and it offered the most sterile environment they could find.
Within minutes, Chief Erik Vasquez, an EMT with a high level of training, came in and took over the scene.
Turns out, the woman, who did not want her name revealed, had made a good choice to quickly get in the hands of medical personnel. The birth had a complication, Vasquez said.
The baby came out covered in a dark, gooey liquid called meconium—which can be deadly. Vasquez said he noticed some of it in the baby's mouth.
Meconium in a newborn's lungs can cause inflammation and infection. It can also block the airways, which may cause permanent brain damage, or even death. So the two EMTs suctioned the baby's mouth and nostrils and cleaned it up.
But the baby looked healthy, with that pink glow that signals a good start. And she soon started crying.
"Out came this crying, beautiful baby girl," Hartmann said.
That apparently surprised the mother. She said her doctor told her she was having a boy.
"Today you're having a girl," Vasquez said to her. They wrapped the baby in a sterile white blanket.
The baby girl was born at 5:49 a.m., and after the mother calmed down a bit, the men took both to the hospital. It was still snowing pretty heavily, so the EMTs made it a slow, smooth ride to Southside Hospital in Bay Shore.
All day Saturday, a spirit of joyfulness filled the firehouse on Fulton Street, the men said.
This was a welcome change from so many of the injuries, illnesses and troubles they see in their job.
"You see so much harm and death throughout the community," Hartmann said. "It feels good to bring a life into the world."