GREENWICH, CT — Cos Cob resident Brittany Piro was 39 weeks pregnant and just a week shy from her due date when something went wrong.
It was around 10:15 pm on Friday, May 13 — an ominous date. Piro was experiencing a medical emergency with her pregnancy, so her husband, Matt, called 911.
Greenwich Emergency Medical Services paramedic Anthony Vontobel, EMT Scott Baxter, and EMT Stephanie Busani, who is a part of GEMS’s Explorers Program, were stationed in Riverside and responded to the call.
They made it to the house within minutes, and immediately started to care for Brittany. Their training took over.
Vontobel said they were on stage for maybe nine minutes before they rushed to Greenwich Hospital.
Doctors performed an emergency C-section, and at 10:47 pm, Benjamin Kelli Piro was born. He was without oxygen for three minutes after birth, Matt said, but he miraculously recovered and his tests have come back clean.
On Wednesday at Greenwich Town Hall, the Piro family, their friends and the town had the chance to say thank you to GEMS.
Vontobel, Baxter and Busani were recognized with citations from First Selectman Fred Camillo. Busani couldn’t attend because she was away and her return flight was delayed.
Baby Benjamin was sleeping quietly in his stroller as Camillo handed out the citations. Brittany and Matt’s other son, Dean, 2, ran gleefully around the town hall meeting room.
“[Benjamin’s] doctors have said it’s a complete miracle that he survived,” Matt said. “We know how important every second was. We’re just so grateful for the team and how quickly they responded.”
Having GEMS there when she needed help the most was “amazing,” Brittany said.
“They saved his life,” she added.
Vontobel has been with GEMS for 12 years. Prior to coming to Greenwich, he worked as a paramedic in New York City at New York-Presbyterian Hospital performing critical care and neonatal transports.
On a daily basis, first responders walk into the unexpected. Being able to adapt on the fly is key, Vontobel said.
“We treat every emergency the same,” he added. “We knew it was something where we couldn’t waste any time, we had to move extremely quickly. There wasn’t much care-wise or specialty things that I could do with my training. I knew she needed an OBGYN specialist, so I knew I needed to get [to the hospital] quickly.”
In stressful situations, Vontobel said training comes to the forefront.
“That way you don’t have to worry about certain things as much. You try to be personal with the patients, talk to them and be there for them, and you also have to make sure you have to keep your head cool to be able to provide them the best care,” Vontobel said. “If you let your emotions take precedent, you’re not going to be able to provide that care for them.”
Baxter, who has worked for three years in Greenwich as part of a 20-year career as an EMT, said it was “gratifying” to be able to play a role in saving Brittany and her newborn, but said he considered his actions that night just part of his job.
Oftentimes, first responders don’t get to follow up on patients after going on calls. Outcomes are sometimes mysteries. Now GEMS is forever linked with this family.
“To be able to see Ben’s outcome is phenomenal,” Baxter added.
Camillo said Greenwich is “blessed” to have a top-notch police department, fire department and emergency services organization.
“Just knowing that you’re in town here is a big deal,” Camillo told GEMS. “You’ve impacted a whole family, and we can’t thank you enough.”
Along with the quick action of GEMS, Matt and Brittany believe they had help from above.
Matt’s aunt, Kelli Piro, died from cancer in October 2021. Matt and Brittany were neighbors with Kelli and her husband Charles, Matt’s uncle.
They believe Kelli was looking down on Benjamin in the few minutes after he was born.
“We know he had a guardian angel that was looking out for him,” Matt said. “That’s why we decided to make his middle name after his guardian angel Kelli.”