Baby born in Wasilla parking lot with help from 911 dispatcher

WASILLA — Lenya Friese came into this world guaranteed a lifetime of home-improvement jokes.

The little girl was born Thursday night in an SUV parked at the Lowe's store in Wasilla.

The forced pit stop came as parents Rick and Kamio Friese were making a desperate dash for Mat-Su Regional Medical Center from their Meadow Lakes home some 25 minutes away.

They were nearly through Wasilla on the Parks Highway when his wife told him to pull over, Rick Friese said by phone Friday.

"She told me, probably a mile from Lowe's, 'You gotta call 911. We're not gonna make it,'" Friese said. "I was going pretty fast. As a guy, you think she can just hold her in."


Friese called 911 at 9:57 p.m. Thursday, according to Palmer Dispatch Center supervisor Rebecca Frey. Childbirth came two minutes later.

"Wait — that can't be right," Frey said as she read back through the logs. "That was quick."

The family was surprised too, Rick Friese said.

Kamio Friese wasn't due until Saturday and was scheduled to be induced Friday, he said. The couple's other three children, ages 18 months, 3 and 5, were staying with a relative.

But they realized the baby was coming sooner — and faster — than expected Thursday when intermittent contractions suddenly shifted to 15 minutes apart, then five, then three.

The Frieses hit the road for the hospital, hazard lights flashing. The drive normally takes 20 to 25 minutes, but Friese was pushing for 15.

It's possible some traffic laws were broken along the way, he said, but there still wasn't enough time.

Friese pulled the family's 2011 GMC Terrain into the empty Lowe's parking lot. The store was closed.

He called 911. Hilary Schwaderer, the emergency dispatcher on the other end of the line, was calm. Schwaderer asked if the baby's head was visible.

Friese turned on the light and saw it certainly was, he said. "I'll never forget that: turning on the dome light and seeing the baby crowning."

Friese ran around to the passenger side of the SUV. He said his wife pushed three or four times and the baby emerged. They both grabbed her.

The dispatcher told them to wipe off the newborn, wrap her up warmly and clear her mouth and nose. The baby didn't cry right away, Friese said, but her parents patted her back and put her on her mother's chest and she was fine.

"She was taking some deep breaths," Friese said. "She seemed happy to be there."

The ambulance arrived minutes later. By then, at Schwaderer's direction, Friese had tied off the umbilical cord. They made the five-minute trip to Mat-Su Regional.

The story was the talk of the hospital, said Friese, who works as an operator for Alaska West Express trucking company. "Everybody was just calling me Dr. Friese."

Family members are joking they're going to buy little Lenya Lowe's gift cards on her birthday.

Schwaderer will get a pink stork pin to celebrate her role in the delivery, Frey said.

Friese offered a few words of advice to parents in a similar situation: "Make sure you have plenty of time. Plenty of time. And listen to your wives about their timing."