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Houston neighbors form human chain to help pregnant woman in labor

Greg Smith(HOUSTON) -- A Houston mom who went into labor as floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey surrounded her apartment was helped to a rescue truck by a human chain of neighbors and firefighters.

Annie Smith, 32, said she was mentally preparing herself to have to undergo a home birth on Sunday as she and her husband, Greg Smith, watched the rising floodwaters make their two-mile drive to the hospital no longer an option.

“When I saw all the flooding I turned to Greg and was like, ‘I’m really starting to get scared now,’” Smith told ABC News. “It kind of dawned on me that this is it, I’m in actual labor.”

The Smiths, both doctors, moved to Houston from Virginia earlier this summer to complete medical fellowships, Annie Smith in geriatrics and Greg Smith in pediatric anesthesiology.

Greg Smith went into “super doctor mode,” according to his wife, and began collecting supplies around the house, like scissors and sewing needles, that could be used for labor. He asked his mom, who was in town for the birth, to boil water to sterilize the supplies.

A neighbor who came by on Sunday morning to check on the couple sent an email to their apartment complex message page asking for help. Within 30 minutes, at least 15 people were in their apartment and ready to help with the delivery.

"There are a lot of medical trainees in the [apartment] complex so a general surgery resident next door came over and some emergency residents and finally an OB-GYN intern showed up too,” Greg Smith said. “People dug through their supplies and brought sutures and scalpels and anything that could be needed.”

The couple had been continuously dialing 911 and the Texas National Guard’s emergency number since 8 a.m. but never got an answer. Harvey, which first made landfall Friday as a Category 4 hurricane before weakening to a tropical storm that has circled southeastern Texas for days, has shattered the contiguous-U.S. rainfall record for a tropical storm, according to the National Weather Service.

Another phone call made by Annie Smith to the director of her fellowship program was what finally got a rescue crew to the Smiths’ front door.

“I think it was [the director’s] father who lived near a fire department and he walked to it and told them what was happening,” Greg Smith recalled.

Less than an hour later, around noon, Greg Smith looked up and saw a truck pulling up outside their front door.

“I was with Annie and I looked out the window and I saw this big truck come pulling up and I said, ‘Holy cow I think someone is here for us,’” he said.

The water by that point was so high that the Smiths’ neighbors and firefighters formed a human chain to help Annie Smith to the back of the flatbed truck.

“I just kind of held onto them one person at a time and crawled along their arms until the firemen helped me up the ladder onto the truck,” she said. “I was sitting on a fire hose in the back of the truck with a shower curtain over my head and looking at all the floodwater around us thinking, ‘This is so bizarre.’”

The Smiths arrived at Texas Children’s Hospital about 15 minutes later. Annie Smith was quickly given an epidural.

"My labor plan was early epidural so I was really scared about how I was going to handle the pain or that something would happen to me or the baby," she said. "We’re both doctors so we appreciate and rely on medical care so much that having a home birth was never something we considered."

Adrielle Smith, the couple’s first child, was born nearly 12 hours later, at 1:59 a.m. Monday, weighing in at 7 pounds, 6 ounces.

Both mom and baby are doing well and the family’s apartment remains safe from the floodwaters. Greg Smith’s mom carried all of their baby equipment to their neighbor’s second-floor apartment as an extra precaution.

“All of this was just completely unimaginable,” said Greg Smith, who, like his wife, grew up in the West and had never experienced a hurricane. “When I got to the hospital and we were in the room, it was an incredible amount of emotion, and I also felt just totally exhausted.”

Adrielle, whose name is Hebrew in origin and means “belongs to God,” has already been given nicknames like “Little Harvey” and “The Hurricane” by family members.

The Smiths came to the hospital with just the clothes on their back and a few things they, and their neighbors, could throw in garbage bags as the fire truck whisked them away.

Annie Smith said she remains amazed by and grateful to the neighbors and firemen who helped her, as well as the medical team who is assisting her now as Houston continues to be pounded by rain.

“It was absolutely incredible how many people responded and were out in the rain trying to help us,” she said. “And the staff has been stranded here since Friday, alternating 12-hour shifts and still giving exceptional care.”

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