As an Indianapolis native, Browns wide receiver David Bell already had plenty of family members in attendance Sunday for Cleveland’s road game against the Colts.
By the end of the first quarter, one more had arrived: a baby girl born at Indianapolis’s Lucas Oil Stadium.
The 22-year-old receiver told Indiana station WLFI-TV Channel 18 after the game that while the girl’s mother had hoped to give birth to the child beforehand, “It’s all in God’s timing, so now I have a new niece.”
Bell’s mother, who was at the stadium for the game, told WLFI then that the girl was delivered at 1:20 p.m., which would have been shortly after kickoff.
“So it’s a real exciting day today,” said Bell’s mother, Kareem Butler. She referred to the mother of the child as her niece, which technically would make the baby girl Bell’s first cousin, once removed. Dwelling on technicalities was more a matter Sunday for the officiating crew on the field, however, than for happy members of the Bell family located elsewhere in the stadium.
“It’s a blessing,” he said.
Butler told Indianapolis station WXIN that the mother’s due date was actually several days after the game, but that the woman went into labor as she and her companions were “crossing the street” to enter the stadium.
“So when they got here, they went to the first aid [station],” Butler said Sunday. “By the time they got her back there, the baby was crowning, and they delivered her here at the stadium.”
The emergency medical technician who was primarily responsible for delivering the baby couldn’t cite specifics of the episode because of privacy regulations, but in a phone interview Monday with The Washington Post, she said “the outcome was fantastic.”
“I couldn’t be more proud of how my team worked together,” said Ashley Vlaskamp, a medical coordinator with Indiana University Health who has worked Colts games for the past two years. Her previous experience included working on the obstetrics floor of another health facility, but as an assistant at the time to the doctors who delivered the babies.
Not only did Sunday bring Vlaskamp’s first opportunity to do so herself, let alone at an NFL stadium, but she knew of colleagues with more than a dozen years of experience who had yet to encounter such a situation in the field. Nevertheless, Vlaskamp said, EMTs and paramedics “train for these kinds of situations, so it is a skill that we have.”
Normally at Colts games, though, Vlaskamp and her team draw on their skills to deal with slightly less pressing medical matters.
“It’s a lot of headaches or indigestion,” she said, “or wearing the wrong shoes, so you get a blister.” Vlaskamp noted that many attendees at NFL games don’t realize how much walking they are required to do to get around a facility such as 67,000-seat Lucas Oil Stadium.
Chest pains are another type of call Vlaskamp might get at a game, and she said her team is prepared to treat cases of cardiac arrest, among other urgent issues.
“But childbirth,” she added with a chuckle, “is definitely not something that you put at the forefront of your mind. … Walking into a stadium, it’s certainly not our normal thought that you would be responding to.”
To judge from the tone of Bell’s comments, and those of his mother, that preparation by Vlaskamp and her crew paid off. The agency that runs the stadium expressed on Monday its “gratitude to our partners at IU Health.”
“They are consistently well-prepared for any medical situation at the Stadium and yesterday was no exception,” Indiana Convention Center & Lucas Oil Stadium said in a statement provided to The Post. The agency also extended its “warmest congratulations and wishes for good health to the family.”
The sudden family addition was an unexpectedly joyful layer to a day for Bell that saw his Browns earn a last-minute, one-point win in front of a number of his high school teammates and coaches, as well as family members. Bell played at nearby Purdue before Cleveland made him a third-round draft pick last year, so he also enjoyed the support of some Boilermakers fans in attendance.
“They were just happy to see me play,” Bell told WLFI. Of his family members, he said, “For a lot of them, this was the first NFL game that they were able to come to, so it was definitely a blessing to see their baby boy’s dreams come to a reality, and they can see it in full fruition.”
Now there’s a baby girl—one who will someday have a heck of a tale to tell about where she was born—in Bell’s family.
“Hopefully, I get to see her when I come back to the city,” he said.