Corvallis doc goes extra mile for pregnant patient

CORVALLIS — There were very few people out on the streets as the night of Dec. 11 slipped into the morning of Dec. 12. Freezing rain had coated Benton County roads in ice, putting a halt to most Friday night activities.

In Corvallis, there were some Oregon State University students out celebrating the end of finals week.

And there was Dr. Ed Piepmeier.

Before the sun came up, Piepmeier would walk, slide and crawl about four miles from his Witham Hill home to Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center. Then, he delivered a baby.

"He really — obviously — goes the extra mile for his patients," quipped Shelly Hunt, administrator at Corvallis Family Medicine, where Piepmeier has his practice.

Piepmeier's patient that night was Amanda Swick, 27, who was pregnant with her second child. After two days of contractions, Swick went into labor the evening of Dec. 11.

She and her husband, Jason Swick, called friends to pick up their 2-year-old son, Josiah. When the Swicks saw their friends' car slide into the driveway, they realized they could be in for a nerve-racking drive.

The Swicks left at about 7 p.m. As they inched toward the hospital along Reservoir Road, they passed numerous cars that had gone off the road.

"Then, we got lucky," Amanda said. "We got behind a sand truck. We followed him into town."

It took them about an hour to get to the hospital.

Piepmeier had gone home for the day. But at about 9 p.m. his office partner, Dr. Mark Rampton, called to let Piepmeier know that Swick was going into labor.

"It became pretty apparent by midnight that they were going to be having the baby very soon," he said.

Amanda was never in danger of giving birth without a physician, but Piepmeier wanted to be there.

Delivering his patients' babies is something he takes pride in, and it's one of the reasons the Swicks wanted Piepmeier for their doctor.

He wasn't about to let a little ice get in his way.

"I was just trying to get there so I could share in the blessing of her delivery," Piepmeier said.

So sometime between 11 p.m. and midnight, he started toward the hospital.

He salted his driveway and drove to the street, but after that, his all-wheel drive car simply couldn't get traction. He realized he'd have to walk. Piepmeier was barely able to stand on the road, so he got some cardboard to use as a makeshift sled to get down Witham Hill.

During the 4.2-mile trip to the hospital, Piepmeier passed college students out carousing. They thought Piepmeier was, like them, just having a good time. They were undoubtedly surprised when the doctor, who had been in touch with the hospital on his cell phone throughout his trek, said he was actually on his way to deliver a baby.

Piepmeier fell a few times and had to crawl up the last hill, but finally he arrived, sweaty despite the cold.

During his journey, Amanda Swick knew Piepmeier was en route, but didn't know how. She expected it to take awhile, but was surprised when he walked in at about 1:30 a.m. and said, "Sorry it took so long; I had to walk."

"I was like, Well, thanks," she said with a laugh.

At 3 a.m. on Dec. 12 — his due date — Jaron David Swick became the newest resident of Benton County. He was treated for respiratory distress from having inhaled amniotic fluid, but received treatment and was able to go home within 48 hours.

"We're definitely excited and blessed," Amanda Swick said from the family's home.

Piepmeier's trip back to his house was easier, but not without difficulty. He got a lift back to Witham Hill, but he had to literally crawl again up the hill because it was so slick.

"I couldn't get traction just walking," he said.

Neighbors saw him and asked what was going on. By the time the ice melted, it seemed like everyone knew about the doctor who went out in the ice.

Hunt said the office reaction to the story was initially shock.

"First, it was just one of disbelief, like 'No way! You did what?'" Hunt said.

But it was a fitting demonstration of Piepmeier's dedication to his patients, she said: "I can literally envision him doing this ... I can't envision too many other doctors attempting it."

Piepmeier, who grew up in Corvallis and received his undergraduate degree from Oregon State University, always wanted to heal people from the community he loves. For him, being there for patients when they need him no matter what the weather is what makes his work fulfilling.

"There's a blessing," he said, "of being around the major (events in) people's lives."

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