Orange County Fire Rescue dispatcher Rene Cheek, like anyone in her profession, has to be ready for almost anything. Her duties can range from helping with putting out fires to helping to deliver babies.

It was the latter that she did on a morning in November 2015, helping local resident Shronda Barnes and Barnes’ mother Alma Jones deliver Barnes’ baby over the phone.

On Friday, Barnes introduced her newborn son, Will Johnson, who is now five months old, to Cheek at an event called a Mother’s Day Reunion at the Orange County Fire Rescue station on Amory Court.

Then, the fire rescue team opened a laptop and played the 911 call over which Cheek helped Barnes and Alma deliver the baby.

On the tape, Cheek, calm and collected, can be heard directing Alma via phone.

“Hold his head firm,” Cheek says. “He’s going to be slippery. Don’t drop him. Support his neck and shoulders.”

Then, once the baby is delivered, Cheek relaxes a little. She congratulates Barnes and Alma and asks if the baby is a boy or a girl. Then she asks if Barnes has picked a name yet, to which they answer “Will.”

On Friday, Cheek said her profession dictates a cool, level head in the face of any danger.

“Take a deep breath, and take one step at a time,” she said when asked what her strategy was. “Answer their questions. When you’re calm, everything goes a lot quicker and smoother.”

Barnes said she was thankful for Cheek’s help.

“I’m very thankful that she was able to answer the phone and walk us through it,” Barnes said.

According to a news release from the county, fire rescue dispatchers are required to learn how to walk a caller through childbirth, CPR, first-aid administration, seizures, snake and other animal bites, accidental poisoning and fire emergencies.

“We cover every possible scenario,” Cheek said. “People rely on the instructions I give them. The job definitely has its challenges, but it’s one that I especially enjoy doing, and the training allows me to do it with confidence.”

After the delivery, Cheek was invited to Mayor Teresa Jacobs‘ Appreciation Coffee event, where Jacobs personally voiced her appreciation.

On Friday, though, Cheek was happier to see Will alive and well than she was to receive accolades from anyone, even the mayor.

“It kept a smile on my face a long time,” she said.

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