A ride to remember

First baby of 2019 born in ambulance while en route to Martha’s Vineyard Hospital.

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During the early morning hours of Jan. 2, Seniel Hannagan of West Tisbury gave birth to the first baby of 2019, while in a Tri-Town Ambulance headed for Martha’s Vineyard Hospital.

Her son Solstice showed signs of arriving on New Year’s Day, Hannagan told The Times. She started having contractions in the morning that were 20 minutes apart, but she “felt normal.”

She said she arrived at the hospital at 9:30 pm that night, as her contractions grew more frequent throughout the day, expecting to possibly give birth to her second child. But when the baby didn’t come, she was sent home.

After returning from the hospital, she said her contractions became stronger and more painful. “I decided to go downstairs and watch TV to try and get my mind off of it,” she said.

At around 1:15 am, Hannagan said the contractions became “extremely painful” and 5 minutes apart. “I called my sister to come and watch our 2-year-old son and could barely get the words out,” Hannagan said. “I almost couldn’t make it upstairs to Andy (her husband).

At 1:50 am, Hannagan said her contractions became “unbearable.”

That’s when Hannagan said she got on all fours in her bathroom and began to push. She called 911 and told the operator she was having a baby on her floor.

The ambulance arrived at 2:15 am and Hannagan was put on a stretcher. Her neighbor and high school acquaintance Ben Retmier was one of the first to respond to the call. Retmier is chief of Tri-Town Ambulance and was a grade below Hannagan at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School.

The ambulance was on its way to the hospital, with Hannagan’s husband tailing close behind, when the baby came; it was 2:30 am, and the ambulance had just reached the drawbridge.

“I was following the ambulance, and suddenly it started going a lot faster — I knew something had happened,” Hannagan’s husband said.

Seniel Hannagan said the baby came unexpectedly, two days ahead of the original due date. EMTs acted quickly to cut the umbilical cord as it was “tightly wound twice” around the child’s neck.

Hannagan said she is grateful to have had so many people supporting her and providing comfort during such a “wild night.”

“Our neighbor was incredible,” she said. “He just happened to be up and heard the call. He ran out of the house without hesitation.”

She also thanked the other emergency personnel that were involved.

“They (emergency services) handled all this incredibly well, with confidence and care. It was an epic night for all,” she said. “And the first baby born in 2019 is on me!”

Hannagan named the 6 pound, 15 ounce baby boy Solstice. His older brother, Astrolis, is 2 years old and turns 3 in May.

Now, Hannagan said, she can rest and enjoy quality time with her family. She will eventually return to Circuit Style Salon in Oak Bluffs to continue her passion of cutting hair. “I was planning on going into work today, but I guess that’s not happening,” she joked.

For Retmier and other emergency personnel, helping deliver baby Solstice was a first.

Retmier told The Times he was at home when he first received the call that Hannagan was going into labor, then rushed to meet the ambulance at her house. “My initial reaction was, ‘Ok, I need to get over there to help her,’” he said.

Retmier said the experience was “nerve wracking” but also “a beautiful thing to be a part of.”

“I’ve been in EMS for 10 years and I’ve never delivered a baby or even come close,” he said.

The experience gave him an appreciation for medical professionals who deliver newborns, he said. “It gave me a healthy respect for what midwives and obstetricians go through daily. It is an amazing thing they do,” he said.

Retmier thanked Tri-Town EMTs Jason Blandini, Diane Demoe and Bruce Haynes, along with West Tisbury police officer Nikolaj Wojtkielo and the rest of the West Tisbury police department, for their quick response time and support. “We had an incredible group of people helping out,” Retmier said.

Retmier said he was impressed by how Hannagan handled the stressful situation. “She is an amazing woman and she did an incredible job; I am happy the baby is happy and healthy.”

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