Army doc delivers baby in lobby of medical center: 'It was a good catch'
By Drew Brooks | The Fayetteville Observer, N.C. (MCT) | Published: January 15, 2014
Capt. Christopher Tarney was greeted at the door of Womack Army Medical Center on Tuesday by a woman in the throes of labor.
But Tarney stayed calm, knelt in front of Rachel Byus' wheelchair and, a short time later, was passing an 8-pound, 11-ounce newborn to the mother.
Tarney has a knack for being in the right place at the right time.
An obstetrician at Womack Army Medical Center, he works long hours at the busy hospital on Fort Bragg.
But in recent weeks, two events have highlighted the doctor's quick thinking and shown the need for Army doctors to be prepared for nearly anything.
Weeks before the holidays, Tarney and Dr. Steve Hong, another Womack obstetrician, were riding together after a long shift.
The pair witnessed a single-car wreck, then leaped into action to treat the driver - a pregnant soldier.
On Tuesday, after speaking with The Fayetteville Observer about the wreck, Tarney was again unexpectedly called into action.
As Tarney and the woman he treated, Erin Masoner, walked to Womack's lobby to pose for a photograph, another woman was being wheeled in through the front door.
Others called for help, and Tarney never hesitated.
"It's a girl!" a woman with the mother said moments after the doctor arrived.
Tarney, who estimated that he has delivered about 400 babies in the past year, said such deliveries are rare but not uncommon at the hospital, which sees an average of 300 deliveries a month.
"It's second nature," Tarney said. "You see somebody in trouble, and you just go."
In December, Tarney and Hong had just finished a 14-hour shift and were sharing a ride home to the off-post neighborhood where both live.
On Nursery Road north of Fort Bragg, they saw a car veer off the road, then flip before landing on its wheels.
"It's sort of surreal," Tarney said, "seeing a car flipping in the road in front of you."
Inside, Masoner was in shock.
At 33 weeks pregnant, her concern was first and foremost with her baby boy.
Masoner was reaching for a water bottle when she swerved into a ditch and launched the car into the air, she said.
Next thing she knew, two doctors were at her car door, telling her to stay still.
"I opened the door and saw she was pregnant," Tarney said. "That was my first concern."
"She had us scared," he added. "It's a miracle."
Masoner was lucky. She was able to protect her head and belly during the accident and escaped more serious injuries.
But her hand took the brunt of the collision.
"It was hamburger meat," she said, motioning to her still-bandaged hand, which has several pins holding the bones together.
Masoner said it will take more than a year for her hand to fully heal, but she said she is thankful the wreck wasn't worse.
Tarney rode with Masoner to the hospital while Hong drove her husband, who had arrived on the scene.
It was after the wreck that Tarney and Masoner learned of another coincidence.
Tarney, it turns out, is set to deliver Masoner's child, Samuel Miles Masoner Jr., next week.
"It was kind of like fate," Masoner said. "It was really nice to have him there."
Tarney said the experience was not one he would likely forget.
Neither is Tuesday's delivery, when Byus gave birth in the lobby of the hospital.
The ordeal was over in a matter of minutes, but it is another memory that will last for Tarney.
"It was a good catch," he said.