A routine Thursday afternoon trip to Walmart turned out to be anything but that for two employees of Jamestown Regional Medical Center. Some JRMC employees are used to helping with pregnant women about to go into labor, but typically not those employed in the information technology or support sales offices — much less when they’re not at the hospital.
By: Brian Willhide, The Jamestown Sun
Some JRMC employees are used to helping with pregnant women about to go into labor, but typically not those employed in the information technology or support sales offices — much less when they’re not at the hospital.
Walmart Cashier Heather Elston was helping Jeremey Schiele and Dane Grebel exchange a television April 19 at the customer service desk. She was 37 weeks pregnant and had been having strong contractions that whole morning before coming to work.
“I kept thinking to myself, ‘Is she nervous? Is there something the matter?’” Grebel said.
Grebel, who works as a support services manager at JRMC, had asked Schiele, IT manager at JRMC, to join him that afternoon to help exchange a television the hospital had purchased for one of its offices.
Schiele noticed Elston’s unsettled demeanor as well but could not tell exactly what was happening either.
“While she was helping us, I could tell she was a bit agitated and nervous, but I really didn’t know what was going on,” he said.
At one point, Elston stepped back from the counter and nature promptly took its course —her water had broken.
“I had gotten as far as scanning the transaction number on their new TV when the next thing I know I feel a really sharp pain and then there was water everywhere,” she said.
According to both men, most everyone around was pretty much in shock when it happened. One fellow employee then helped Elston try to call her husband and mother to let them know she was going into labor.
Other employees then tried to figure out how to get Elston to the hospital. That’s when Schiele and Grebel offered their assistance.
“I just looked at her and said, ‘We work at the hospital and we’re on our way back there now. We could take you.’” Grebel said. “I’m no doctor but I do know that when your water breaks, you certainly need to get to a hospital quick.”
Elston said she initially planned to take her vehicle, which was in the parking lot, drive home to get her husband and then head to the hospital. Schiele told her that wasn’t a good idea and said they would be glad to help.
“It was fortunate because we had the JRMC van with us, so I went out and got the van and a wheelchair,” he said.
Elston said she had not noticed the men were JRMC employees when they were first in line, but said it was a sense of relief once they told her.
“I said ‘Oh thank God —now I don’t have to drive home,’” Elston said.
While Schiele ran out to the parking lot, another Walmart cashier finished the television exchange — which had been nearly complete when Elston’s water broke — with Grebel.
Schiele came back moments later with the wheelchair and the two men, with new TV in tow, wheeled Elston out to the parking lot to sounds of applause from Walmart customers and employees.
“We heard some clapping and a couple people saying ‘Good job’ as we walked out of there,” Schiele said.
The two men helped Elston into the van and they were off to JRMC. Schiele called the hospital’s emergency room to let them know they were on their way, which floored the emergency room operator.
“I called ahead on my cell phone and let them know Dane and I were bringing in a woman going into labor. They just said, ‘Wait, what? Why would you be calling then?’” Schiele said.
On the way, Grebel said he tried to calm Elston’s nerves by making small talk.
“I just tried to be as reassuring and calm as possible,” he said. “I told her how this sort of thing happens. I’ve worked at the hospital for about five years and I’ve seen it other times in the main lobby and in the cafeteria.”
The group made it over to the emergency room safely, where Elston was promptly taken to the Family BirthPlace but needed to have an emergency cesarean section in the operating room downstairs.
She gave birth to a healthy baby girl, Juanita. Elston said both she and the baby are doing well.
It proved to be a case of Schiele and Grebel being at the right place at the right time.
“It’s certainly something you don’t do every day,” Schiele said. “All we came there to do initially was just exchange a TV.”
Neither Schiele nor Grebel has heard directly from Elston since, but both men wished her and the family the best of luck.
“We’re just glad to have been there and glad it worked out for the best,” Grebel said.
Elston said how appreciative she is for what they were able to do for her.
“They didn’t have to do all that for me, but I’m really glad they did. I just want to thank them so much for that,” she said.
Sun reporter Brian Willhide can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org