Skip to Content

‘We were terrified’: A roadside birth and the harsh reality of maternity deserts in Missouri, Kansas

By Angie Ricono and Cyndi Fahrlander

Click here for updates on this story

    KANSAS CITY, Missouri (KCTV) — While the birth of a baby is always exciting for the family, it rarely makes front page news.

Not only did Frankie Redenbaugh’s birth make the front page of the local paper, but area television stations and social media also shared the blessed event.

Everyone was excited about the novelty of his birth. That’s because Frankie was born on the side of the road, delivered by his father.

“Everyone is like, ‘Congratulations! Congratulations!’ but it was a scary situation,” said Riley Redenbaugh, Frankie’s dad.

It wasn’t the birth plan.

Riley and Danielle Redenbaugh live in Osawatomie, Kansas. About 60 miles southwest of Kansas City — more than 30 miles away from Olathe Medical Center, where the Redenbaughs planned to deliver.

Frankie is fine. Mom and Dad are also fine. The family is opening up about their terrifying ordeal of delivering a baby in the dark to raise awareness of a growing concern sweeping the nation—maternity deserts.

Danielle’s water broke at 3 a.m. on a Tuesday morning.

“I stood up and my water broke,” said Danielle. She was ready. She’d already done this twice before. The plan was to drive to Olathe Medical Center where Danielle is a nurse working with stroke patients.

The couple called Riley’s mom to stay with their daughters, and a friend, who wanted to be present for the birth. Then things escalated quickly.

“We have to go like, now,” Danielle remembered telling Riley.

They got in their car and raced to Olathe.

It wasn’t long before the couple realized that they were not going to make it to the hospital.

As they approached Miami Medical Center in Paola, about 9 miles from their home, Riley wondered if they should stop. But that hospital doesn’t provide maternity services. They decided to keep going.

“We were terrified,” said Danielle.

It’s hard to imagine just how terrifying it was for them until you listen to the 911 call. You can hear Danielle screaming in the background. She knows the baby is coming.

Riley is trying to drive, comfort his wife, and listen to the dispatcher all at the same time. He pulls over on an exit ramp as the dispatcher calmly tries to guide them. You can hear Danielle cry on the call, “I don’t know what to do!”

Then, just seconds later she yells, “Get the baby now. Catch him! catch him!”

The dispatcher tells the couple help is on the way and urges them to stay on the line so he can tell them what to do.

It will be more than 11 minutes before medical responders arrive.

“He’s having a hard time breathing,” Riley tells the dispatcher.

“Listen to me,” the dispatcher said calmly. “Gently wipe the baby’s mouth and nose, and vigorously dry the baby with a clean, dry towel for at least 30 seconds.”

The family is on the side of the road with no towel, no blanket, no suction—and a baby struggling.

Riley took off the sweatshirt he was wearing to use as a towel.

“He’s struggling to breathe. His lips are purple,” Riley tells the dispatcher.

“Completely cover the baby’s mouth and nose with your mouth,” said the dispatcher. “Then blow five puffs of air into the lungs about a half second each. Just enough to make the chest rise with each breath. Go ahead, and do that now.”

Finally, little Frankie starts breathing, but his coloring was concerning. Turns out he’s bruised from the birth.

Dispatchers and first responders are trained to handle situations like the Redenbaughs faced. But these events are not as rare as you might think.

This emergency birth scenario has played out three times in one month for Johnson County Emergency responders.

We talked with Danielle’s doctor, Dr. Emily Mathiesin. She planned on delivering Frankie, but instead, she met them at the hospital.

“Just to have someone tell you what to do over the phone is horrifying,” said Dr. Mathiesen.

She told us there is a lot that could go wrong during a birth.

“I worry about you know, a baby could get stuck and sometimes will require maneuvers to be able to get delivered. Sometimes moms will bleed heavily after delivery and that route can require medications and other interventions,” said Dr. Mathiesen.

She worries about her other patients. Some live 90 minutes away. There may be a community hospital in their area, but many don’t have Birthing Units.

According to a March of Dimes survey, 45 percent of all counties in Kansas are now considered maternity deserts.

In Missouri, that number is 41 percent.

After all the attention and excitement, the family returned to their home in Osawatomie. They were short-term celebrities and now are settled back into a family routine.

They are thankful that everything worked out okay, and that Frankie is healthy and happy.

The family recently did a newborn photo shoot. They returned to the exit ramp off the highway, now able to smile about their ordeal, Riley wearing that same sweatshirt that served as Frankie’s blanket.

Frankie is in for a great story — down the road.

Please note: This content carries a strict local market embargo. If you share the same market as the contributor of this article, you may not use it on any platform.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - Regional

Jump to comments ↓

CNN Newsource


KTVZ NewsChannel 21 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content