JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas –
A nurse who works in the Oncology/Hematology Infusion Clinic was on her way to work at Brooke Army Medical Center the morning of Aug. 31 when she experienced what she thought was a Braxton-Hicks contraction.
The pain caused Cristina Wheeler to drive up on the curb when she was entering the main gate, causing her tire to blow out. She was in the far right-hand lane, so she pulled over on the side of the road and called her husband, retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Paul Wheeler, to come to help move the car and fix the tire.
“I felt a gush of fluid and I didn’t know if it was blood or my water breaking or what was happening,” Wheeler said. “I just knew that it wasn’t good, because I was so early in my pregnancy, only 27 weeks and five days. I had another contraction and was doubled over.”
U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Ruth Asare, a nurse who works in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, was driving out of the gate after working the night shift.
“I noticed other cars bypassing her with some honking because of where she was parked,” Asare said. “I knew something was wrong because of the way she had her hand placed on her stomach and a look of almost fear or worry on her face. She also looked like she was trying to walk back to the gates for someone’s attention.”
Asare made a U-turn, parked behind Wheeler and put on her hazard lights. After letting the gate guards know what happened she offered to drive Wheeler the rest of the way to the hospital.
“I felt bad, because I know what it’s like to work the night shift,” Wheeler said. “She said she didn’t mind, and she drove me up to the hospital, got a wheelchair and brought me upstairs (to Labor and Delivery).”
“The information she gave me is what led me to believe she might be in labor,” Asare said. “But I did not tell her, I did not want to frighten her more than she already was.”
Wheeler assumed she would be discharged, but upon examination, Wheeler was fully dilated and the babies were coming.
“One of them was breach, so it had to be an emergency C-section,” Wheeler said. “I called my husband and I told him it was an emergency and the babies have to come now. He ran over from the side of the road where he was working on changing the tire.”
Thankfully, her husband dropped the tire and ran into the hospital before she went into surgery. Paul Wheeler knew exactly where to go because he also worked at BAMC as a critical care ICU nurse prior to his retirement after 24 years of service in the U.S. Air Force.
“Within two hours our boys were both born,” Wheeler said.
“I was able to see the babies and talked to Mr. and Mrs. Wheeler who were grateful,” Asare said. “I am just thankful to God that they are all healthy and sound! The more I hear about what transpired after I dropped Mrs. Wheeler off, the more grateful I am to God that I was able to help her.”
Identical twins, Ethan Joseph and Thomas Jay Wheeler, are still in the NICU, but they are both healthy and doing well.
“I don’t know what would have happened if I just drove home and ignored her,” Asare added. “Helping Mrs. Wheeler was a reminder to myself as to why I do what I do; why I became a nurse in the first place.”
Wheeler agreed. “I’m so grateful the right people were there at the right time,” she said. “Even though my twin boys came early, they are doing really well.”