- Associated Press - Friday, April 22, 2016

COLLINSVILLE, Ill. (AP) - Standing next to the ambulance where she had given birth to a healthy baby boy one month earlier, Stacey Whitson passed her sleeping infant to the first responders who delivered him.

“He’s much bigger now,” she says.

Collinsville firefighters and paramedics Chris Castens, 37, and Danny Gulledge, 33, shared what they remembered about the morning of Feb. 25 with Whitson as they held the baby, whose nickname is Jesus.

Whitson, 39, tells them, before her teenage son called 911 as she went into labor that day, she considered driving herself to the hospital. “But I could barely make it to the door,” she said.

Gulledge and Castens don’t remember the 13-year-old being there. They were hustling to get Whitson to the ambulance. By the time they left her Caseyville home, her water had broken and her contractions were less than three minutes apart.

And Whitson was in so much pain in the tense situation, she says she couldn’t have identified the firefighters afterward. Meeting them at the downtown fire station on Thursday afternoon was like seeing them for the first time.

The firefighters received the call about 12:30 a.m., and before 1 a.m., baby Jesus was born. They were minutes from Memorial Hospital in Belleville.

“He came out crying,” Whitson said.

“We were happy with that,” Gulledge assured her.

They wonder if baby Jesus keeps his mother awake now with his cries.

“He sleeps all night long,” she tells them. “This is the miracle baby here. What kids do you know (who) sleep all night?”

Whitson jokes that her son, whose name is DaCorrione, is a “miracle baby” for a number of reasons, including his habit of sleeping through the night.

Mainly, his nickname comes from his resilience, according to Whitson.

Doctors had misdiagnosed her pregnancy as the flu, but Whitson insisted it was not a virus, so she was given an ultrasound. She was six months along at the time.

“That’s why I call him baby Jesus; he was determined to make it here,” Whitson has said.

Gulledge called Jesus’ birth one of the highlights of his career.

“It’s something to be proud of,” he said.

This was the first emergency delivery either of the firefighters had experienced.

“We were both new at this,” Gulledge said. “… All I was thinking was, ‘God, please let this child come out crying.’ It worked out well.”

Gulledge said he was on the phone with the Belleville hospital to say they were on the way when Castens gave him a look that told him the baby was coming. So he hung up and reached for some supplies. “By the time I turned around, he had the baby in his hands,” Gulledge said.

Whitson said she was glad to see the firefighters praised by Assistant Fire Chief Dale Kyrouac, as well as the Collinsville City Council during its last meeting. Each of the men were given a letter of commendation and a blue stork pin to wear on their uniforms, representing their efforts in safely delivering a baby boy. The pins are a new gift from the department; Castens and Gulledge were given the first pair.

“They deserve recognition,” Whitson said.

Castens said it was “pretty cool” seeing baby Jesus again, and that the reunion was inevitable.

“We had planned on stopping by her house one day if we’re coming back from Memorial or St. Elizabeth’s (hospitals),” Castens said, “but luckily, she came here.”

Two of Jesus’ three siblings came to meet the firefighters, too - his 9-year-old brother and 6-year-old sister. They toured an ambulance and each left with child-sized fireman’s hats full of candy.

Baby Jesus slept through the meeting.

“Why aren’t they all this peaceful?” Castens said as he held the baby.

___

Source: Belleville News-Democrat, https://bit.ly/2326RvM


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