Waking up to the sound of screams at 5:30 a.m., George Leader, an Archeology professor at the College, ran outside to tend to what looked like a fallen woman on her way to work. However, as he approached the scene, it was clear that what was actually occurring was much different.
“I looked outside and saw a lady in the middle of the street (lying) on her back,” Leader said. “I quickly put on slippers and ran out there thinking, if this lady hurt her back, don’t move her. So I got out there, and it was quickly apparent what was happening … That’s when I realized that the baby was coming.”
With the help of Leader, Shirley Bonanni successfully gave birth to Bella Bonanni on a green sled atop an icy hill in Philadelphia.
Leader explained that as a result of the big snow storms this year, four-wheel drive couldn’t climb the steep hill that leads to Bonanni’s house, among other local residents.
“(Fabian Bonanni, the father), had parked his car there during the night of the storm, and that morning the mom ended up going into labor,” Leader said. “So he put her on a sled to try and get her down the hill in a controlled way to get to the car … Our street was just snow and ice. He got her about halfway down the hill on the sled, which is right in front of my house, and that’s when I heard the screaming and went outside.”
Leader, who has no experience in the medical field, never having kids or witnessing a live birth, called 911 and verbalized directions to the mother.
“(I) only (knew) what you see in the movies,” Leader said. “I was yelling to her, ‘breathe slowly, big breaths through your mouth, the baby’s head is coming … he’s face down’ and they’re saying okay that’s fine and within about two minutes, the baby came right out.”
According to Leader, the father grabbed the baby, broke the umbilical cord with his hands, wrapped the baby in a blanket and they both immediately sprinted up the hill with the baby into the warmth of their house.
“It was -15 degrees with windchill and I was just frozen, we needed to get the baby inside,” Leader said. “Once the baby was crying and it looked OK, I ran back to the mother. She was just freezing and shaking and I ran to get my roommates … they ran out and we all grabbed a corner of the sled and moved the mother into our living room because our house was the closest.”
Minutes later, the fire department arrived but couldn’t get up the hill either. About five firefighters ran up the hill, some attending to the baby, the rest to the mother as they awaited the arrival of the paramedics.
“(It was) pretty wild,” Leader said. “Not in a million years” did he ever think something like that would happen to him. “That stuff only happens in movies.”