Baby born on Amtrak California Zephyr train in March 2019 - Q&A

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coleallen

New Member
Hello,

I am a major Amtrak fan/rail enthusiast. I take the train a lot and there was this one time, I observed a live birth take place on the train. I have numerous thoughts and questions around that which I would like your feedback on. Back in March 2019, I was riding on the California Zephyr train from Davis, CA to Glenwood Springs, CO and on the same train, there was a pregnant 19 year old girl named Hillary who was riding in the 632 sleeping car (same as me) that ended up going into labor and giving birth to a baby IN HER SLEEPING CAR!! Hillary and her boyfriend Carson (both aged 19 at the time) were having a baby before they were ready to and back then, they were both sophomores at San Francisco State University. I made great conversation with them and the reason for their trip was because Hillary, whose family lives in Colorado Springs wanted to go home just before her due date so her parents could help out with the delivery. However, the airline companies said no to her flying because her due date of April 5th was almost there (she was in the last 5 weeks of her third trimester). The couple had to resort to going by Amtrak instead, so they reserved a Roomette from Emeryville to Denver, then they boarded Train #6 on March 29th, and I met them sitting next to them in the observation car. They were actually in the room right next door to me (I was in Room 5, they were in Room 3). I talked to them quite a lot about Amtrak and made them familiar with the way Amtrak travel works since that was their first time (I’m an experienced passenger). They enjoyed talking to me very much and I also put my hand on the girl’s pregnant belly (the baby was really moving a lot). We formed a bond with each other and had dinner as well as lunch in the Dining Car together. We then went to sleep that night at around 9:30 PM (Elko, NV).

During the night at 1 AM just after crossing the NV-UT border at Wendover, I was suddenly woken up by Carson. He knocked on my roomette door and was running around panicking. Hillary was laying in her roomette crying out in pain. Her water apparently broke just then and the baby was starting to come out, causing a huge panic as she was now in labor. The boyfriend was asking me for help since I’m an expert with Amtrak. The boyfriend and I both woke up the Sleeping Car Attendant to alert him about this, and then he told us to go get the conductor while he got dressed. We got the conductors, but unfortunately, at that moment, the train was speeding through a remote desert location in Utah between the NV-UT border and SLC that is incredibly distant from hospitals where it would take a long time for paramedics to reach the train. Not being able to reach an ambulance fast enough, the sleeping car attendant (a young gentleman named Justin Woods who was in his early 20s) volunteered to deliver the baby for her since he knew how it was done by previously watching videos on the internet about baby delivery. Hillary hoped the sleeping car attendant could do it and didn't feel she had a choice, so Justin went to the first aid kid, got his gloves on, squeezed himself into the sleeper compartment, took her sweats off, and the girl started pushing. I was standing right there the whole time holding her left leg and also video recording this with Carson’s phone at their request so that there would be proof later on. Hillary was in a LOT of pain pushing and vomiting quite a lot also (labor alone is incredibly painful, but being in labor on a speeding train makes it even more painful and nauseating). It took 20 minutes, but Justin gently pulled the baby out from her cervix resulting in the birth of a healthy baby girl (awww) and this was a really sweet moment. Now, the umbilical cord could not be cut right then and there since they did not have the correct scissors and clamps onboard, but all that mattered was getting the baby out safe and sound (cutting the cord had to wait until they got to the hospital). Hillary and Carson were relieved and VERY grateful of Justin for doing something incredibly brave and heroic for them. They said that they would call his boss as soon as they got home and recommend him for a raise, bonus, possible promotion or employee recognition honor as their way of thanking Justin for his quick and possibly life-saving response. From now on, they will ride Amtrak instead of flying and encourage all their friends to do so as well. They actually named the baby “Emma Amtrak Burns” (with Carson’s last name and Amtrak being the middle name to remind people of the fact that she was born on a train). The train eventually stopped at a railroad crossing out in the salt flats where fire and paramedics were outside waiting for us. A helicopter was actually deployed out to the train to pick up Hillary and her newborn since the nearest hospital was more than an hour away (in Salt Lake City). 5 paramedics and firefighters came onboard the train, then the 5 of them physically picked her up and carried her down the stairs (with the baby attached to her and on top of her stomach). I helped the boyfriend carry their stuff downstairs. Carrying her down those really tight and narrow stairs was so complicated and also, it was nice and warm inside the train, but it was freezing cold outside since it was 1:30 in the morning AND the girl was completely naked (many women choose to not wear any clothes when they give birth because their body temperature gets VERY high and it’s just more comfortable). Justin let Hillary keep the blankets since they were all bloody now (can’t be used on the train anymore). Hillary was put on a gurney and I walked with them to the helicopter and just before Hillary and her baby were placed in the helicopter, I said goodbye, wishing them all well. Carson hugged me and encouraged me to keep in touch with them on social media. He also gave Justin a $60 tip (normally you give $15-$20) as a way of thanking him and promised to call his employer later on. Hillary was then placed in the helicopter and after their bags were removed from the baggage car, and the boyfriend climbed inside, the helicopter took off and airlifted the three of them away from the train to the nearest hospital which was in Salt Lake City - more than 60 minutes worth of driving from where the train stopped.

They eventually got treated and made it back home and when they did, Hillary called Justin’s boss and explained what an incredibly fabulous job Justin had done and suggested that he get recognized for this as well as a raise and a promotion. I’ve remained in contact with Hillary and Carson (who are now married) through Facebook and I’ve also seen them and their baby in person a couple times as I now live right near San Francisco and I’m extremely familiar with the city (the baby is now a year old and the birth certificate actually says “State of Utah - Undetermined location” since the train was moving and there is no physical address, but they did specify the circumstances). I’ve told this story to a number of Amtrak staff and they all say it happens more frequently than I think. A sleeping car attendant on the CZ told me that he’s worked for Amtrak for over 30 years and he delivered 3 babies during his career at Amtrak (all of which were from pregnant women riding in his sleeping car) and according to him, this happens 4 to 6 times a year. Every 2 or 3 months, somewhere in the US, a baby is born on an Amtrak train. Most likely it’s because pregnant females in their third trimester can’t fly, so they use the train instead. Obviously, Amtrak does not restrict pregnant travelers like airlines do, despite this being a habit on the train (babies being born in the interior of Amtrak trains). Some questions I had were:

1. If any of this happened to you, your wife/girlfriend or other female relatives where they suddenly went into labor on an Amtrak train and the baby was delivered by an Amtrak attendant or a conductor, would you be grateful of the staff member who delivered the baby?

2. If that was your kid, would you put “Amtrak” as the baby’s middle name or name it after the conductor/attendant that delivered him/her?

3. Would you contact the attendant’s employer and advocate that he be recognized/rewarded for that?

4. If you were his boss, how would you reward him for delivering a baby on the train? Who is the supervisor of all those sleeping car attendants and other staff that work in the OBS crew anyway?

Quite frankly, some people think that since their due date was April 5th and they departed on March 29th, that that is cutting it WAY too close, especially considering the fact that the CZ travels across a remote territory between Emeryville and Denver. First, the train has to go up and over the Sierras, an area that is highly elevated and since the train is so high up and on cliffs, it would be pretty hard for even a helicopter to reach the train up there. After Reno, the CZ speeds across endless miles of flat, and bare desert, canyons between Provo and Helper, more remote desert, then the Rockies, and up there, especially in the canyons/gorges between Glenwood Springs and Granby or between the Moffatt Tunnel and Big Ten Curve, there are almost no roads to the tracks, which would make it really hard for first responders to locate the train in any kind of medical emergency. Just what would happen if someone went into labor while the train traveling through any of those hard areas?? They could never have a helicopter come to the train on the Gore and Byers Canyon gorges, now could they? Now, if this happens more than once a year, Amtrak probably has a plan (maybe the staff working on the trains know the basic steps around delivering babies). The reason why airlines do not allow women in their last stage of pregnancy to travel is because they don’t want the women to go into labor in the air due to the fact that heightened elevations can cause early labor, plus it would take forever to get to a hospital. Amtrak long distance trains kinda have the same problem, especially the Empire Builder and California Zephyr (since those trains go into remote and distant areas that can hardly be reached by first responders and the highest elevation on the CZ is well more than 9K feet above sea level). I think those factors right there - going up the Sierras the previous day, traveling at a high speed across the desert since Reno, being only 19 years old, being unmedicated, plus a giant steak and crab dinner in the Dining Car several hours earlier was probably what triggered labor and caused it to happen so fast. Her labor only took 20 minutes (water broke at 1:00 1AM, baby was born at 1:22 AM) which is incredibly short as my mom took more than 13 hours to push me out. As it is, how brave do you think Hillary was to give birth unmedicated, while crammed into a tiny sleeping compartment, on a train bed (which is FAR less roomy and not flexible, unlike a hospital bed in the L&D), on a train that was speeding 90 MPH, the baby being delivered by an Amtrak employee who is unlicensed and has no training, knowledge or experience of any kind around medical activities, the cord having to stay attached, plus being carried off the train in freezing cold weather with no clothes on (only a small blanket covering her). Like, what do you think of all these factors and this story right here?
 
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Bill Anderson

Well-Known Member
Quite an adventure. I might name my child after the AMTRAK employee that delivered him/her, but I would not name him "AMTRAK." As far as taking the train in the first place, I think the couple cut it too close to the due date. There are some towns on the line in Nevada (Wendover, Carlin, Elko) that probably have hospitals, but things get very desolate east of Salt Lake City.
 

coleallen

New Member
Quite an adventure. I might name my child after the AMTRAK employee that delivered him/her, but I would not name him "AMTRAK." As far as taking the train in the first place, I think the couple cut it too close to the due date. There are some towns on the line in Nevada (Wendover, Carlin, Elko) that probably have hospitals, but things get very desolate east of Salt Lake City.
What do you think would happen if she went into labor on one of the canyons? (between Glenwood Springs and Granby).
 




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