By Kara Lopp
The last time Randy McKown held Kali she was in the back of a Mint Hill ambulance in the Walgreens parking lot – umbilical cord just cut.
McKown, a deputy chief with the Mint Hill Volunteer Fire Department, helped deliver the young Locust resident more than a year ago on Friday, April 13, 2012. The family stopped by the fire station this week bringing a thank you card, hugs and words of appreciation for their help.
“You’re a bit bigger than the last time I saw you,” McKown said to Kali as he reached out to hold her. “And you have more hair.”
McKown, who works full-time with the Charlotte Fire Department and as a paramedic with Mecklenburg County’s MEDIC, said he’s delivered more than a dozen babies in his 25 years on the job. But this was the first of those babies he’s seen afterward. Kali’s father, T.J. Kiker, reached out to the department to try and reunite with the rescuers.
“We just wanted to show our appreciation,” Kiker said at the station. “There’s no telling what could have happened if they didn’t arrive.”
Saying it was the scariest moments of his life, Kiker recalled the harrowing ordeal that took him and Kali’s mom, Krystal Smith, on a frantic drive from Locust during evening rush hour traffic. Kiker was behind the wheel, bound for Matthews’ hospital, and on the phone with a 9-1-1 dispatcher.
But Kali couldn’t wait.
Krystal “kind of grabbed my neck and said ‘the head’s sticking out,’” Kiker said. “I didn’t know what I was going to do.”
Kiker pulled into the Walgreens at the intersection of Idlewild and Matthews-Mint Hill roads where just minutes later Kali would be born. Big sister Jordyn, now 5, was in the car too.
Until firefighters arrived, Kiker was convinced he’d have to deliver the baby himself and listened to the dispatcher’s advice to clear out the back of their vehicle to give Smith a place to lay down. He shuttered at the thought of cutting the umbilical cord. The dispatcher had told him to look for something sharp, even break a CD if he had to.
Thankfully, he said, Mint Hill firefighters came to the rescue.
McKown was joined at the scene by three other firefighters, including his wife, Jessica, who also volunteers with Mint Hill. And everyone had a part to play.
Firefighter Josh Ferguson allowed Smith to give him “the death grip” during labor, Cliff Sutton handed McKown the supplies he needed and Jessica McKown got to cut the umbilical cord.
Randy “had just caught the baby when I got in the back,” Jessica McKown said. She had been across the street pumping gas when the ambulance pulled up.
“It’s nice to see you all again. I’m sorry I was screaming and stuff,” Smith said to the first responders, laughing during the reunion.
“You were fine, considering the circumstances,” Randy McKown said, smiling.