Swan Hills EMS Heroes Deliver, Literally

Caitlin Heffel and Trevor Trefanenko, Primary Care Paramedics with Swan Hills EMS, didn’t know they would be marking a new milestone in their careers when setting out to respond to a call in Swan Hills in the wee hours of March 21.

Chelsy Giffen, who had lived in Swan Hills with her husband and four children (at that point) for just under a year, found herself in a difficult situation as she went into labor on the night of March 20. Chelsy’s husband, Jay Giffen, works as a truck driver and, as an unfortunate example of Murphy’s Law, happened to be on the road in Athabasca at the time. Without a way to get to the hospital, Chelsy called 911 for assistance shortly before midnight.

EMS and the Swan Hills Fire Department responded to the Giffen home shortly after dispatch called, as the situation had been deemed a potential imminent birth. After Heffel and Trefanenko had assessed Chelsy’s health and condition, they conferred with their online doctor by phone and were told that it sounded like they had time to take her to the Whitecourt Healthcare Centre, as per her birth plan. After gently helping Chelsey settle into the ambulance, they headed onto the highway with Heffel driving and Trefanenko attending to the patient in the back of the vehicle.

Everything was moving along as expected for the majority of the drive, but around the time they passed the Eagle River Casino on Highway 32, Trefanenko noticed his patient was showing signs that her labor was progressing much more rapidly and positioned himself to offer better assistance.

Trefanenko was coaching Chelsy through the process and helping her to remain calm as they continued toward the hospital. When Chelsy’s water broke while crossing the first bridge as the ambulance entered Whitecourt, Heffel and Trefanenko both knew the baby was coming soon. The baby’s head made its appearance when the vehicle was jostled going over the train tracks, just three minutes from the hospital. Trefanenko asked Heffel to pull over, but there wasn’t a safe place to pull over to the side of the road and stop, so they had to continue toward the hospital. Trefanenko instructed Chelsy to push, and with just three pushes, little Timothy was born.

Timothy was a healthy baby boy. Besides the unusual circumstances of being born in a moving vehicle, everything about the birth was ideal. “In this case, everything went so smooth, so great, it was one of the best deliveries I have ever seen,” said Trefanenko.

While circumstances prevented Jay Giffen from being there physically, he supported Chelsy by phone through the whole experience.

Baby Timothy was born at 1:24 AM on March 21, 2024. He was 7 lbs 5 oz at birth, and according to Heffel, “He was honestly the cutest newborn baby I’ve ever seen.”

While Trefanenko had been present for and assisted in many deliveries over his 33-year career, Timothy’s was the first time he had been the one to deliver the baby. His enthusiasm was unmistakable as Trefanenko explained, “It’s just so exciting because it doesn’t happen often in a person’s career that they deliver a baby.” Heffel had experienced her first time delivering a baby on the job just last year.

Chelsy is very thankful for the assistance she received from EMS, saying, “If EMS wasn’t available, I would have been delivering at home, alone,” and “I felt like I was in very good hands.”

Chelsy and Jay have four other children, all boys. Timothy’s older brothers are Rylan (14), Eli (9), Levi (5), and Isaac (2). When asked if Timothy’s delivery was her most exciting, Chelsy answered, “They each have their unique little stories, but this one tops the cake.”

Delivering a baby is a significant milestone in a paramedic’s career. On May 9, Darby Bannister (Supervisor, Clinical Operations), Cale Holstrom (Manager, Operations, North Zone EMS), and Dan Huckabee (Director of EMS Operations, North Zone) came to the Swan Hills Healthcare Centre to meet with and congratulate Trefanenko, Heffel, Chelsy, and Timothy. During this visit, Bannister presented Trefanenko and Heffel with a certificate and stork pin for their EMS uniforms to mark the occasion.

Please join The Grizzly Gazette in congratulating Trefanenko and Heffel on their career milestones and a job well done, as well as Jay and Chelsy Giffen on the newest addition to their family.

Dean LaBerge, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grizzly Gazette