Dispatcher who helped Algonquin family through labor recognized

Telecommunicator Jodi Kaalaas received gifts from the fire district, met with the family live for the first time Wednesday

Dispatcher Jodi Kaalaas, left, helped Ben Hussey, center, and his wife, Nicole Hussey, right, with the delivery of their sixth child, John, on May 3, 2022.

Jodi Kaalaas has been an emergency telecommunicator for over 30 years, fielding calls about burglaries and domestic situations, but earlier this month, she experienced a happy first: She helped deliver a baby over the phone.

Ben Hussey of Algonquin called 911 at 4:30 a.m. May 3 when Hussey’s wife, Nicole, was in labor, and Kaalaas guided the family through the labor until the ambulance arrived.

Situations where a baby is born before an ambulance arrives are a special rarity, Kaalaas said.

“It’s like a unicorn,” Kaalaas said. “You never get that. I’ve had calls from other women in labor, but the ambulance always gets there and transported them. I was so glad I was able to help. I cried when it was over. It was amazing.”

The family was “amazing” and attentive to all of Kaalaas’ instructions, she said.

“She walked me through what to do, which was basically not to panic,” Ben Hussey said. “There were certain moments it was difficult to hear Jodi but for the most part, her calmness just made it so much easier.”

The newborn, John, is the Husseys’ sixth child, but the first where Nicole went into labor at home and had to call 911, she said.

Kaalaas was recognized for her help in delivering the newborn baby at the Algonquin-Lake in the Hills Fire Protection District’s Board of Trustees meeting Wednesday afternoon. At the meeting, Kaalaas and the family were able to meet each other face to face, including baby John. The fire department also gave the Hussey family a tour of the station.

“Emergency dispatches are the unsung heroes of emergency services,” Deputy Chief John Knebl said in a news release. ”They are in the background providing critical information to assist callers and provide information to first responders.”

Dispatcher-assisted childbirths are a rare occurrence in McHenry County, with only a few happening each year, Knebl said in the release.