A California couple is giving thanks to a first responder who helped them stay calm at a time of chaos, by naming their fourth child after him.
Paradise, Calif., native Anastasia Skinner hasn’t had an easy time adding to her family with her husband, Daniel. The 25-year-old, who has three children, experienced the heartbreak of two miscarriages before she became pregnant with her fourth child. Still, she couldn’t have anticipated what her daughter’s birth would bring or the heroism of the person who saved her life in order to make it happen.
On Nov. 8, the Skinners’ neighborhood was under evacuation as the Camp Fire raged. But even before she became aware of the dire situation nearby, Anastasia Skinner tells Yahoo Lifestyle, she set out to get her family dogs from her mother’s house, and soon after was plagued by painful contractions.
“Less than half a mile from my mom’s house, I got directed to go onto Gate Lane. It was around an hour into waiting on that less than 1-mile-long lane that I started feeling severe contractions that I was unable to talk or think through,” Anastasia explains. “Around them getting to three minutes apart, both my mom and my husband told me to get off the phone with them and call 911.”
According to the stay-at-home mother, the baby wasn’t due for another month. But not only did the contractions begin prematurely, her pregnancy had already been designated as high-risk.
“I pleaded with myself to not have her yet, because I knew with hemorrhaging previously and the need for a C-section, my chances and my baby’s chances weren’t good,” she said. “The pain got worse, so the 911 operator said to lay on the horn and scream for help.”
First responders eventually approached her vehicle while traffic was at a standstill and called for a helicopter to take her to the hospital. However, it was not until EMS Operations Chief Mickey Huber became involved that the expectant mom began to feel hopeful.
“Mickey showed up and made the decision that I didn’t have time to wait on the Life Flight, and formed an escort of emergency vehicles,” Skinner says, explaining that a retired EMT took the driver’s seat, while a neighbor who recognized her also jumped into the car, to take care of the dogs in her passenger seat. “Mickey and I were in the back, with my seats folded down. He made me laugh, told me to tell him stories of happiness, to tell me what his name was several times. He stayed really calm and got us out.”
Huber explains to Yahoo Lifestyle that he was able to transfer Anastasia to an ambulance that would take her to the Enloe Medical Center in Chico, Calif., before he went back to help with more evacuations.
Daniel, meanwhile, received the evacuation orders and was traveling in a separate car, as he attempted to drive away from the blaze. He recorded videos of the flames that were beginning to engulf the neighborhood as he tried to follow his wife to the hospital.
All the while, Anastasia was being treated to correct her blood pressure and heart rate, which put her at risk of having a stroke. Doctors and nurses were able to stop her preterm labor that day, and she was discharged from the hospital quickly, as a result of the further health risks caused by the buildup of smoke. Neither she nor Daniel was able to get in touch with Huber until after Thanksgiving.
“We tried finding him for a while, and he responded to a paper article [Daniel and I] did to give credit to everyone involved,” Anastasia explains. “Daniel called him and they sent emails back and forth.”
One of those emails included the news that Anastasia was scheduled for a C-section on Dec. 2, and that the couple wanted Huber to come to visit, to meet the baby. At that same time, Daniel told Huber that the baby would be named Zoele Mickey Skinner in his honor.
“I was and still am humbled and honored by their gesture. Zoele is such a cutie,” Huber says. “[Evacuation] day was a mix of emotions, but I have a great memory of that day now, because of baby Zoele.”
Photos of Huber holding 2-day-old Zoele went viral after they were posted to the Enloe Medical Center’s Facebook page on Monday. While many people are praising Huber for saving both Anastasia and Zoele’s lives, the mother hopes that her daughter, too, will one day understand the significant role that Huber played in her life.
Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle:
• Couple donates everything in their house to firefighters whose homes were destroyed by Camp Fire: ‘We’ll start over; they’re starting over’
• After a 4-year-old lost his beloved dinosaur collection in wildfire, community donates toys
• ‘We’re all here together’: California couple refuse to let wildfire take away their wedding day