SINGAPORE - Couple Kenny Chung and Ann Tay knew their second daughter was due soon. What they did not expect was that the birth would happen in their car.
But their biggest surprise, they said, was how the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) ambulance they called after Ms Tay's water broke two weeks ago declined to take them to the hospital of their choice.
Mr Chung, a 42-year-old senior engineer, said: "When the ambulance arrived, I mentioned we were going to Mount Alvernia, where our gynaecologist was. But they said that they were unable to send us to a private hospital."
SCDF's website states that its ambulances will take all emergency cases to the nearest public hospital to ensure early treatment and to free up the vehicle for the next call.
SCDF also told The Sunday Times that while an ambulance was called for on Oct 23, there was no request during the call to take the patient to Mount Alvernia Hospital in Thomson Road.
"If such a request was made, our operation centre specialist would have advised the caller that the SCDF does not convey patients to a hospital of their choice, but to the nearest appropriate hospital," said an SCDF spokesman, adding that all its paramedics are trained to deliver a baby.
With Ms Tay's contractions growing more intense, Mr Chung made the decision to drive them to Mount Alvernia in his car.
"Time was crucial," he said.
He also noted that the call was made by a neighbour and he did not know of the 1777 medical services hotline, which delivers patients to both government and private hospitals.
The drama-filled night began when Ms Tay's water bag broke mid-way through a friend's wedding dinner at Orchid Country Club. The couple, together with their two-year-old daughter Jodie, rushed back to their home, a 3Gen HDB flat in Yishun.
The plan was to drop Jodie off with Ms Tay's mother, who was living with them, grab the already-packed overnight bag, and drive to Mount Alvernia, some 18 minutes away.
After they got home, Ms Tay experienced severe contractions in the lift on their way down to the carpark. "The pain was getting too excruciating to bear," said Ms Tay, a 29-year-old project manager.
She managed to walk to the carpark only with the help of her husband and a neighbour, who was at the void deck when he heard her screams.
The ambulance they called for at around 10pm arrived within eight minutes. But they did not get on. "We were left helpless," said Ms Tay.
The couple, together with the neighbour, decided to drive to the hospital themselves. "I was scared. There was no choice but to keep calm and practise my breathing techniques," she said.
The baby, however, would not wait. Mid-way through the journey, Ms Tay, who was sitting on some towels in the front of the car with the seat reclined, felt the newborn's head. "All I had to do was to wait for the next contraction and make one final push."
Ms Tay yelled for her husband to stop the car, and when Mr Chung stepped on the brakes, the next contraction came. "I could feel it coming," said Ms Tay.
At around 10.20pm, by a bus stop along the empty Marymount Road, baby Kayla slid out and Mr Chung caught her with his left hand. The umbilical cord was left attached and wrapped with towels until they reached the hospital.
"There was a sense of relief, but we knew we had to get the baby to the hospital," said Ms Tay.
Upon reaching the entrance of the hospital's accident and emergency department, they were rushed into the delivery ward, where Mr Chung eventually cut the cord.