Dramatic 911 call captures dispatcher giving life-saving instructions to harried new father

By Greg Hardesty

“Is the baby breathing?”

“No.”

“Ok. Listen to me carefully, OK?”

A dramatic 911 call released by Anaheim Fire & Rescue on Tuesday captures a life-and-death situation last year when twins decided to arrive 12 weeks early.

The tape captures the cool professionalism of a dispatcher calmly talking a harried father through performing emergency CPR on one of his tiny newborns after he was born in a toilet.

During the eight-minute call, as a crew from Engine 5 rushed to the home in the 2200 block of Balsam Avenue, Metro Net dispatcher John Delgado repeatedly tells Jeff Rowan to carefully listen as he walks him through giving mouth-to-mouth and applying chest compressions on his son, only 3.35 pounds and in full cardiac arrest.

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Anaheim Fire Chief Randy Bruegman with Jeff and Erica Rowan and their year-old twins Christiaan and JoAnne. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

He tells Rowan to get his wife off the toilet and on her back – the other baby still inside her – and to be careful with the umbilical cord as he tries to save his son’s life.

“My mother was a security guard at Disneyland for 31 years,” Jeff Rowan recounted Tuesday. “She taught me to not freak out – to work the problem.”

So Jeff worked the problem – one that started unfolding around 5 a.m. on Sept. 18, 2013.

At first, Erica Rowan blamed the sharp pain around her side and abdomen on dinner the night before: beans and hot dogs. After all, the babies – her first – weren’t due until Dec. 12.

Her husband already was at work in Brea in his manager position at Party City – about 10 minutes away.

Around 9:30 a.m., Erica noticed she was bleeding. She planned to go to the doctor.

She contacted Jeff but he drove home to check on her. By the time he arrived, shortly before 10 a.m., things didn’t look good.

Jeff called 911, telling Delgado he thought his wife had just suffered a miscarriage.

The dispatcher told Jeff not to flush the toilet.

In an interview, Jeff recalled hearing “a splash and a cry.”

It was 9:59 a.m.

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Christiaan Walker Rowan and Chief Bruegman at Anaheim Fire headquarters Tuesday. Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Christiaan Walker Rowan had entered the world.

On the phone with the dispatcher, a confused Jeff said he believed both babies were in the toilet.

Delgado told him to get his wife off the toilet and retrieve the babies.

When Jeff got his wife off the toilet and on her back on the floor, he told the dispatcher one baby had been born and went to work on his son, cradling his cell phone between his head and shoulder while carefully doing as Delgado instructed.

His wife quietly took it all in.

“I was just trying to stay calm,” Erica Rowan, 35, said.

The dispatcher recognized the gravity of the situation.

With paramedics from Anaheim Engine 5 on the way – Capt. Joel Griffin and Engineer Jason Hartley, along with firefighters Denny Munson and Mark Lucas — Delgado upgraded the level of the call and called in a second crew, Anaheim Truck 1, which included Capt. Tom Roche and Engineer Brad Oye, joined by firefighters Shane Kohls and Manny Ortega.

After the third round of mouth-to-mouth and three rounds of chest compressions, Jeff, 36, said his son responded.

“He slapped me in the face,” Jeff said in an interview.

Engine 5 crew members arrived and took over performing CPR on Christiaan, cut the umbilical cord and handed the newborn to members of Truck 1, which continued CPR on the infant and began warming him.

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JoAnne Rowan and her father Jeff. Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

An ambulance whisked Erica Rowan to UCI Medical Center in Orange, where nurses began prepping her for an emergency C-section.

But JoAnne Sky Rowan couldn’t wait.

The blue-eyed girl, weighing 2.5 pounds, was born naturally at 10:34 a.m.

On Sept. 18 last week, at the moment Christiaan was born, the Rowans – along with Jeff Rowan’s 9-year-old daughter, Ava – held a brief ceremony in the bathroom.

Two days later, on Saturday, Sept. 20, the Rowans had a proper birthday party for both 1-year-olds – dubbed the “Skywalker Twins” after their father’s deep love for “Star Wars” and other sci-fi movies.

And on Tuesday, Sept. 23, the Rowans brought their twins to Anaheim Fire headquarters to meet with several officials, including Fire Chief Randy R. Bruegman.

Delgado had the day off, so the Rowans weren’t able to personally thank him.

Said Bruegman: “This story has a very happy ending, and it just goes to show how the system works. It all started with the dispatcher recognizing the need to relay information over the phone for the father to provide CPR. That was excellent recognition.

“And I think our department has some of the finest paramedics in the U.S. I’m really proud of them.”

Christiaan now weighs 17 pounds and 3.5 ounces.

JoAnne tips the scales at 19 pounds and 7.5 ounces.

Oh, and after that call last year on Sept. 18, the crew on Anaheim Truck 1 — Roche,  Kohls, Oye and Ortega – weren’t done.

They delivered a healthy baby girl in a van in the parking lot of Station 1.

She was due Oct. 8.

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Mary Roberts (center), technology analyst for Anaheim Fire, Joelle Samsel, EMS coordinator and Alan Long, battalion chief, greet Jeff Rowan, left, as he holds his 1-year-old daughter, JoAnne, with his wife Erica, holding Christiaan, as they pay a thank you visit to Anaheim Fire Department headquarters Tuesday. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

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Dispatcher John Delgado