by Dennis Dalman
What kind of baby would want to be born in a Dodge Ram truck in 11-below-zero weather?
Well, tiny Neely Erickson didn’t seem to mind. Not at all. She was ready to barge into the world and so she did, thank you – in the parking lot in front of CentraCare clinic near the Coborn’s Super Store in St. Joseph.
Her parents, Kristian and Monica, were quite surprised. In fact, they were shocked. And so was St. Joseph Police Chief Joel Klein, who masterminded the sudden delivery.
It happened on the morning of Friday, Jan. 31. On that bitterly cold morning, Kristian and Monica were at their home in Sauk Centre when suddenly Monica started feeling unmistakable labor contractions. The baby’s delivery date was estimated to be Feb. 4, but nature was calling – early. They bundled up and climbed into the Dodge truck. Then they set out on the freeway to go to the St. Cloud Hospital. Just about the time they approached the Hwy. 75 exit from the freeway, Monica told her husband he’d better pull over quickly, like right now!, she told him.
Kristian, by then, was on the phone after dialing 911. He continued driving until he found someplace safe – the parking lot by CentraCare just to the east of Hwy. 75. Police Chief Klein, clued in about the emergency, pulled up immediately.
Kristian quickly but gently put Monica in the back seat of the truck. Klein put on latex gloves and prepared for an imminent birth. Kristian, frantic with concern, leaned over the front seat, talking to his wife, trying to soothe and calm her, worrying about the cold winter coming in through the open truck doors, hoping with all his heart the baby would be OK, concerned his wife would have medical problems. Monica, naturally, was in pain, but it wasn’t long before Klein’s gloved hands were holding a squirming newborn. Suddenly, wailing cries filled the air.
Kristian cranked up the heat full blast in the truck.
Just then, first responders arrived at the scene. One of them expertly cut the umbilical cord, helped clean off the slippery baby and swaddled it snugly in a fleece blanket. Within seconds, mother, father and newborn were hustled off in a Gold Cross ambulance for a smooth ride to the St. Cloud Hospital.
In the cozy warmth of the hospital, surrounded by amazed and loving caregivers, they all soon learned mother and child were doing just fine. Neely weighed 6 pounds 10 ounces, with dark-blue eyes and a full head of brown hair.
“Well, of course I never expected that kind of birth,” Kristian told the Newsleader four days after the birth. “But it was a great experience, getting to assist in the delivery of my child.”
Mother and father were both impressed and thankful for Chief Klein’s cool, collected grace under pressure as he assisted with the birth.
The Ericksons, both originally from Minnesota, recently moved back to the state and decided to make their home in Sauk Centre, where Monica’s parents live. Kristian, a captain in the U.S. Army, is an assistant professor of military science at St. John’s University, the College of St. Benedict and St. Cloud State University. The couple has one other child, a 17-month-old daughter named Ainslee.
“Is Neely the new baby cute?” asked the Newsleader.
“Is she cute?,” said Kristian, incredulous. “Cute? Are you kidding? She’s gorgeous!”
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.