Real Stories: Irma Evacuee Birth Story

As Hurricane Irma, one of the strongest storms in recorded history, threatened the southern tip of Florida, many eyes were watching to see where its path would land. Two of the people carefully watching its destructive path through the Caribbean were Kim and Kevin O’Byrne, who live on MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. Kim was 39 weeks pregnant and was understandably worried.

“We kept watching the path shift. First it was going to hit the east coast of Florida, then center, but then as it kept getting closer, they predicted a direct hit to Tampa,” said Kim. Since their house was in immediate danger of storm surge, they knew they needed to leave, especially when the mandatory evacuation order arrived. However, Kim’s impending birth caused some challenges.

As the storm approached Florida, the forecast changed and it was predicted to directly hit the Tampa Bay area. With less than a week until their baby’s due date, the family made the tough decision to evacuate. Kim and Kevin packed up their two year old son, their three dogs and their irreplaceable items, not knowing if they would have a house to come home to.
“I knew I would be one of the last ones off base, so we had to wait until Saturday morning to leave for Birmingham,” said Kevin. As soon as they could, the O’Byrnes left Tampa to make their way to Birmingham, where Kevin’s family lives. They caravanned for thirteen hours, meeting Kevin’s parents along the way to help.

“I was having contractions the whole way, mostly from the stress,” said Kim. “We battled horrible traffic and almost ran out of fuel because nowhere along the evacuation route had any gas left. I was very afraid that we were going to have a baby on the side of the road.”
Once in Birmingham, Kim and Kevin knew that they would be here to stay until their new baby arrived. That’s when Kim started to research her options on where to give birth.

“In Tampa, I had seen a certified nurse midwife for my whole pregnancy and I knew that I wanted to have an unmedicated labor,” said Kim. “When I found out that Princeton Baptist Medical Center was the only hospital in Birmingham that has a certified nurse midwife, I knew that was where I would be delivering. Asking my friends in the area just solidified my choice as they highly recommended I deliver at Princeton.”

“The midwifery model of care is low-intervention, so many moms who want an unmedicated birth like having the option of a certified nurse midwife,” said Sheila Lopez, Princeton Baptist Medical Center’s certified nurse midwife.

When Kim reached out to Sheila about her situation, she was able to get an appointment the next day. Just a couple of days later, on September 14, Kim delivered her second son, Dallas James O’Byrne, with an unmedicated labor, just how she wished. He weighed 7 pounds and 10 ounces and was perfectly healthy. Both Kim and Dallas are doing great.

“I’m so glad that we were able to help a mom in such a tough position have the birth she wanted,” said Sheila. “Evacuating from a hurricane is stressful, especially for a mom who is so close to her due date. It feels really good that we were able to give her the birth experience that she had planned in Tampa right here in Birmingham.”

“The people here at Princeton were just so amazing,” said Kim. “Everyone has been so sweet. The labor and delivery nurse met me in the ER, and I felt like I had known her my whole life. Everything was so personalized and they did a very good job of making us feel comfortable. Everyone was so knowledgeable and they were supportive of me and my plan.”

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