As coronavirus deaths mounted in New York, Police Officer Nicholas Torrisi and Police Officer Joseph Feger responded at 12:38 a.m. Sunday to a report of a female in labor.
When the two cops from the 47th Precinct arrived at the address on East 227th Street in the Bronx, they found the woman in the bedroom, so close to giving birth that they radioed for an ambulance.
“Be advised EMS is on backlog and there isn’t an ETA for the next available,” the dispatcher replied.
The Emergency Medical Service paramedics were all busy racing from one “cough and fever” COVID-19 call to another. The dispatcher was unable even to estimate when an ambulance might be available.
The cops were prepared just to take the woman to the hospital in their radio car, but they understood the birth was imminent.
“You can tell it’s about to happen,” Torrisi told The Daily Beast.
The cops took a position on either side of the woman, each clasping a lower arm. They assured her they were there and counseled her to push when a contraction hit. A friend of the woman’s then announced that the baby’s head was visible. Torrisi shifted over.
“I was in position to receive the baby,” Torrisi later said.
The baby crowned and then emerged straight into Torrisi’s waiting hands, revealing herself to be a girl. He was holding life in its first, miraculous moments.
“I never experienced anything like that,” the 27-year-old cop later said. “I was kind of like in awe.”
He saw that the umbilical cord was wrapped around the neck, but he quickly resolved the problem.
“The baby let out like a big cry,” Torrisi said.
He intuitively understood the significance.
“She was OK.”
He handed the child to the mother.
“I said, “You got a beautiful baby girl,” he recalled.
The mother gave a big sigh that he took to be of relief. She smiled and everybody joined her, no matter what might be going on in a city that seemed to be teetering toward an apocalypse.
The ambulances were still busy with coronavirus victims, and the cops transported mother and child and the friend in the back of the radio car to a nearby hospital. The baby was quiet in the mother’s arms.
Torrisi asked the mother if she already had picked a name.
“Ariah,” she replied.
The people who succumbed to coronavirus at North Central Bronx Hospital this past weekend included NYPD Detective Cedric Dixson, the first sworn member of the department to die in the pandemic. Dixson died Saturday. And now, early Sunday, two of his fellow cops pulled up outside with a newborn they had helped bring into the world. The hospital staff who emerged to bring the mother and daughter were on the front lines of the grimmest of battles. But little Ariah did not fail to get them smiling, too.
Out in the surrounding streets of the Bronx, ambulances were responding to more coronavirus calls. A paramedic got on the radio to ask the EMS dispatcher a question about a call on Sedgwick Avenue.
“Can you just tell me what are we walking into right now?”
“You’re going to a female who’s 57 with difficulty breathing, with severe headache and pain in her throat,” the dispatcher said.
Torrisi and 29-year-old Feger continued on patrol, two young cops who did not yet have kids but had witnessed life’s answer to death in even the darkest times.
“Beautiful,” Torrisi said. “A little joy.”