After Daniel Helsel and his colleague were dispatched to help a woman in labor at her home Monday morning, the two firefighters joked about the coincidence of the call landing on his birthday.
Wouldn't it be funny if Helsel, who was born in the back of an ambulance, wound up delivering a baby on the way to the hospital just as he had come into the world 42 years ago?
It turns out that is exactly what happened minutes after Helsel and his colleagues loaded the mother-to-be in the back of an ambulance heading to Prince George's Hospital Center.
"As soon as she got in the ambulance, the baby's head" appeared, Helsel said Monday. "Everything was good with the delivery, albeit in the back of an ambulance."
Helsel said he was born on the side of the Beltway when his mother was on her way to Holy Cross Hospital in 1975. His mother had been in labor for 15 minutes, called 911 and was in the back of an ambulance from Landover Hills when he was delivered by a medic working his first night on the job.
Helsel said his delivery of the baby girl must have been "fate." The 17-year-veteran of the Prince George's County Fire Department said he had never worked on his birthday until Monday.
"We were just trying to get her to the hospital," Helsel said. "In the moment, you're just trying to do your job."
About 12:17 a.m., Helsel and his colleague at the station in Largo were called to help a pregnant woman in her apartment. After they arrived, they discovered the woman's contractions were less than two minutes apart.
They brought her from her third-floor apartment and loaded her into the ambulance.
"We got in the back of the unit; I happened to be at the foot of the stretcher," Helsel said.
The baby girl quickly arrived crying and breathing, delivered at 12:38 a.m. After the infant's umbilical cord was cut, she was cleaned up and handed to her mother.
"We placed the baby on mom's chest and continued bouncing down the road to the hospital," Helsel said.
Mark Brady, a spokesman for the Prince George's Fire Department, says at least 24 babies are born in county ambulances on the way to the hospital each year.
"It used to be a big thing when it occurred, but as time goes on and the population grows, it happens more often," Brady said.
But the fact that one of the department's firefighters delivered a baby in an ambulance much as he was born 42 years ago, Brady said, is a "remarkable and amazing coincidence."
Hours after delivering the baby, Helsel said he planned to spend his birthday in the firehouse with a visit from his parents, his wife and his children.