campus news

Family medicine doctors handle home birth in blizzard

Drs. Anthony Burdo, Elizabeth Harding and Tatum Burdo.

Three UB family medicine doctors presided over a home birth on the city’s West Side during the Blizzard of 2022. From left are Anthony Burdo, Elizabeth Harding and Tatum Burdo.

By DIRK HOFFMAN

Published January 24, 2023

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“This home birth did not really seem too out of the ordinary. Obviously, this is a super Jericho thing to do. I wouldn’t expect anything else to happen on Christmas. ”
Tatum Burdo, first-year trainee
Family Medicine Residency Program, urban/Buffalo General-Jericho Road track

In the midst of one of the worst blizzards in Buffalo’s history, a group of physicians from the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences played vital roles in a special Christmas Day delivery.

Mumina Musse went into labor with her first child Christmas Eve morning in her home on the city’s West Side.

Her sister-in-law, Halima Mohamed, called 911 multiple times to try and get an ambulance to transport her to the hospital, but emergency services throughout the city were slowed — and in some cases shut down — by the raging storm.

Mohamed, who works as a medical assistant at Jericho Road Community Health Center, then called Myron L. Glick, MD ’93, Jericho Road’s founder and chief executive officer.

Answering the call for help

Glick thought maybe if the baby’s arrival was imminent, he could talk to Mohamed over the phone and guide her through the delivery. But when he learned it was Musse’s first baby, he realized the labor could take more than 24 hours — so he put out a call to doctors who lived in the neighborhood.

Musse lives only a block away from the Jericho Road clinics on Barton Street and on Breckenridge Street, so it turned out three Jericho Road physicians lived in the vicinity.

Anthony Burdo and Tatum Burdo — husband and wife — live just minutes away. Both are trainees in the family medicine residency program’s urban/Buffalo General — Jericho Road track.

Tatum Burdo is in her first year of the program, while Anthony Burdo is in his third. Both see patients at Jericho Road’s Breckenridge Street location.

“Around 9 a.m. on Saturday morning, we decided to try and walk over to the patient’s house,” Tatum Burdo says. “At that point we only had a backpack with limited supplies — gloves, a suture kit and some hand sanitizer. That was all we had.

“We walked over and performed a cervical exam to check how far dilated she was and at that point she was at 2 centimeters, so not that far along,” she adds. “We knew that we probably had some time, so we decided to walk to the clinic to get more supplies.”

Gathering supplies, assessing the situation

The Burdos trekked through snow that was above their knees to make it to the Jericho Road clinic.

“We grabbed everything we could — an ultrasound machine, fetal heart rate doppler, some Pitocin — a medication to help stop bleeding after delivery, more suture kits, sterile gloves, literally everything we could find. We had two stuffed backpacks,” Tatum Burdo says.

“We let Dr. Glick know what we were doing, saying ‘I hope we are not going to be setting off any alarms at the clinic.’ We also took some coffee because we thought we could be there for a while.”

The couple made it back to Musse’s house and checked on her again to find that she was a little more progressed, but they realized that delivery was going to be a slow process.

They maintained constant contact via telephone with Elizabeth Harding, clinical assistant professor of family medicine and an attending physician at Jericho Road.

“We had been talking to Dr. Harding throughout the day, kind of just running everything by her,” Anthony Burdo says. “Around 7 p.m., Dr. Harding was able to walk over to the house, making about a half-mile trek.”

Tatum Burdo says communicating with other health professionals helped everyone remain calm and in control throughout the process.

“We knew there was a fetal heart rate, and we knew that the baby was head down,” she says. “We had one of our co-residents pull up her records and give us her whole prenatal history, which was really helpful.

“Calls were being made throughout the night, updating people on our situation, and updating Dr. Glick. People were working behind the scenes to check out snowmobile options. We stayed up all night checking the mother’s progress. We shared a Somali dinner on Christmas Eve. It was really special.”

Positive outcome despite trying circumstances

Anthony Burdo and Tatum Burdo with baby Alaiya, who they helped deliver from a stormbound mother on Christmas Day.

By early Christmas morning, the weather conditions continued to hamper emergency medical services (EMS) to the point where the three physicians got confirmation that they would be on their own for the foreseeable future.

Around noon, the contractions became more frequent and the doctors knew the baby’s arrival was not far off. A healthy baby girl was born at 1:36 p.m. Christmas Day.

“Around 20 minutes before the baby came out, three females from the mother’s extended family showed up. They had walked for miles. They were all in the room as the baby was coming out,” Tatum Burdo says. “It was really nice to have their fresh energy. They were reciting verses from the Quran. Then the baby came out and I don’t think we had even cut the umbilical cord yet and the National Guard walked in.”

Allana Marie Krolikowski, MD ’11, a clinical assistant professor of family medicine and chief medical officer at Jericho Road, was on the telephone guiding the doctors at the scene, offering expert advice on what to do after the delivery.

Meanwhile, National Guard members were assessing the situation and weighing options for trying to clear the roadways, Tatum Burdo says.

About two hours after the baby was born, the National Guard had multiple tractors plowing the street. They were able to take the baby, mother, father and sister-in-law to Oishei Children’s Hospital, where they were met by Glick, who then delivered the placenta.

Harding also rode along in the convoy to the hospital, while the Burdos stayed behind to clean up the house.

Musse had been in labor for more than 30 hours.

“For a first-time mom, she was a champ. She had definitely wanted an epidural, which there was no way we could provide,” Tatum Burdo says. “I think she had one Tylenol in the house that she took during that whole time with us. She was incredible; she was so strong.”

Diverse patient population

Both Anthony and Tatum Burdo are focused on newcomer health, so the Jericho Road track in residency training is a perfect fit for them.

They learned about Jericho Road while they were undergraduates at Houghton University.

Tatum Burdo worked as a medical assistant at Jericho Road for a year before entering medical school and both she and Anthony did rotations at Jericho Road while they were in medical school.

“A lot of students from Houghton do experiential learning opportunities in Buffalo after graduating,” Tatum Burdo says.

Ironically, she had been involved with the Priscilla Project, which is a Jericho Road program that “works to achieve healthy birth outcomes by empowering socially isolated, at-risk women as go through the process of pregnancy, labor, delivery and the postpartum period.”

“I didn’t have experience with home births, but I was definitely comfortable being in patients’ homes, talking to them about what it would be like to deliver a baby in a U.S. hospital,” Tatum Burdo says.

Anthony Burdo also spent time shadowing at Jericho Road and doing some English as a Second Language teaching in Buffalo before medical school.

“We definitely had an intentional interest in Jericho Road because both us have a career interest in refugee health,” Tatum Burdo says.

“From the beginning, Anthony and I wanted to live on the West Side. Our neighbors here are super diverse. It’s important to us to live near the people we are serving in the clinic.”

Building trust within the community

Tatum Burdo says both she and Anthony have a strong interest in how different cultural and religious beliefs influence health care.

“Jericho Road is the community hub where we can explore that every day in a clinical setting and work with attendings that have years of experience of doing that themselves,” she says.

“This home birth did not really seem too out of the ordinary. Obviously, this is a super Jericho thing to do. I wouldn’t expect anything else to happen on Christmas.”

Anthony Burdo says the home birth was an “absolute last resort,” noting “we got her to the hospital as fast as we could.”

“I think Jericho Road has built a lot of community trust by employing people from the community,” he says. “I think the fact that this patient’s sister-in-law was an employee at Jericho and when she couldn’t get EMS, she reached out to Dr. Glick, speaks to the importance of Jericho’s presence on the West Side.”

Tatum Burdo notes Jericho Road is an established presence in the community.

“If you are in a crisis, who are you going to call? You’re going to call Jericho Road. I think this was a testament to that,” she says.

She also takes joy in the cross-cultural events that took place during those snowy couple of days.

“It was just a picture of Buffalo. Anthony and I were celebrating Christmas, Mumina is Muslim and Dr. Harding was celebrating Hanukkah with her family,” she says. “So, all of us converging on Christmas Day was kind of a picture of Buffalo, I think.”