Weyburn EMTs Jason Schmidt, Stephanie Schmidt and Jennifer Elias-White, firefighters Bill Houghton and Chief Steve Debienne, as well as retired nurse Jeannie Schlacter, were presented on June 11 with a special token of thanks from the Sun Country Health Region and the mother of two very special twin babies, Toni Schlacter.
On May 22, Weyburn EMS and the Weyburn Fire Department responded to a unique call: premature twins were being born at a home in Weyburn.
Beginning in late April, complications of her pregnancy led Toni to the Regina General Hospital, where, at only about 20 weeks along, Schlacter was told to go home and to stay on bed rest.
Her discomfort not ceasing, in the early morning hours on May 22, Schlacter began having labour pains. She was only 28 weeks along, so she hoped they were just false labour pains. She kept in close communication with her mother, Jeannie, who had worked for 30 years in the maternity ward at the Weyburn General Hospital.
"Brad kept calling me to make sure I was doing okay," said Toni. Toni's common-law husband Brad Johnson and their five year old daughter Michelle, as well as Brad's 24 year old son Adam Johnson, kept vigilant that day. Toni's best friend Robyn Layden also regularly checked in on her, as did Toni's sister Chrissy.
Twelve hours after contractions began, Toni told Brad to contact her doctor in Regina to say they'd be heading there as soon as she finished in the bathroom. She found herself, however, unable to move from there.
Less than four hours later, at 8:10 p.m., Tori Lynn Schlacter was born, weighing 2.3 pounds. She let out a cry just as Grandma Jeannie was walking in the door. Brad called 911 and was given guidance by the operator. Four minutes after Tori was born, her twin sister, Sareena Marie Schlacter came into the world by the hands of her Grandmother. Toni said Sareena 'came out sleeping' and she weighed 2.2 pounds.
"Both girls were born at home in my bathroom," she said. "When the EMS and fire department got to our house, Brad was running around getting warm towels to wrap the girls in, while my mom was sitting with me."
The Weyburn EMS crew that evening got the call and immediately requested back up from an Advanced Care Paramedic and the Weyburn Fire Department.
"When we got the call, she had just delivered the second baby," said EMT Stephanie Schmidt. "The first one wasn't breathing and we had to revive her."
Jeannie Schlacter was calmed and relieved to see Schmidt upon her arrival, because they had worked together and she could trust her as well as the others.
The team of emergency response workers, which included EMT Stephanie Schmidt and Jason Schmidt, with Advanced Care Paramedic Jennifer Elias-White and firefighter Bill Houghton, resuscitated Tori and quickly transported both of the babies to the hospital.
According to Jennifer Elias-White, who was called for back up because of her training as an ACP, it was the quick actions of the EMS team, Jason and Stephanie, as well as the knowledge the fire fighters had of the equipment required, that ultimately helped things go smoothly.
"I was the back up," said Elias-White, who is trained in delivering babies and actually had her first delivery in a vehicle in January of 2012. This experience, however, was different.
"This was a call that two people could not handle," she said. "There were three patients and we each had a patient. "It was a team effort and the fire fighters were a big help."
Jeannie Schlacter said that the specialists and the NICU doctors and nurses have all commended the fast actions of the emergency team. The first ten minutes are the most critical and Weyburn's team handled it to perfection.
"When we got to the hospital, there were 16 people in the emergency room, working on my daughters," she said. Jeannie Schlacter knew many of the hospital staff, which was a comfort.
"Everything went so fast," said Toni. "At 1:00 a.m. that night, the NICU truck left for Regina with our girls."
Jeannie Schlacter also said that although it took the NICU vehicle four hours to arrive in Weyburn, the team of hospital staff and other emergency care providers had the babies stable throughout the wait. She also said that the other patients in the waiting room exhibited utmost patience that night.
"We are thankful to have the great help," said Toni. "I just want everyone to know how much they are appreciated for helping us save our twin girls' lives. Thank you so much," she said.
According to Jason Schmidt, for EMS workers, it is rather a pleasure to be able to help with scenarios that result in a happy ending. He said that in his line of work, he must often deal with the worst aspects of life.
"Usually, no one calls 911 for a good thing," said Schmidt. "This call turned out great and it's a rarity for that to happen. So I think that's very uplifting for everyone to see a good side of the 911 system, not just always the bad parts of it."
A happy ending it may be, but it is still a tough climb for the Schlacter twins, who are making progress in the NICU at Regina General. The girls are now off of the ventillation machines and are being tube-fed. They're around three pounds now and will be able to go home when their weight reaches approximately five pounds.
"They still have to be monitored constantly," said Jeannie Schlacter.
For the parents of premature babies, it is sometimes quite a wait before being able to hold one's own child. Toni Schlacter had to wait about ten days to hold her babies.
"I have held Tori four times so far," said Schlacter on June 13, "and today was Brad's first day holding Sareena." In fact, June 13 was the first day little Sareena was able to be taken out of her isolette.
"They know their mother's voice," said Jeannie Schlacter. "When they get upset, the nurses remind them that mom is coming soon and they calm right down."
The happy and healthy Schlacter twins have been given the best possible advantage, considering their circumstances, thanks to Weyburn's professional and competent emergency response teams.