University of Utah Health Security Officer Cristina Lopez was having an uneventful shift when an emergency was reported. The call was to assist a woman giving birth in the hospital parking garage.
It was past midnight when Officer Lopez arrived to see a woman and her husband with a baby in the middle of the third-floor visitor parking terrace.
“I asked if they were okay, but they did not understand because they did not speak English,” Lopez said. “Luckily, I am fluent in Spanish so I could communicate with them. I asked, ‘necesita ayuda?’ (Do you need help?) Then, I quickly held the baby because the father told me he was about to fade.”
Officer Lopez helped the new parents, holding the baby while the umbilical cord was still attached. There, in the middle of the terrace, with the medical help and Lopez translating, she directed the father to cut the cord. Lopez also provided an unused emergency plastic gown she happened to have in her pocket to help the medical staff collect the placenta so they could transfer the baby and mother to the hospital.
At just 19 years old, this experience confirmed to Lopez that this is the type of community service she wants to pursue.
“As security officers, we are trained to deal with patients yelling at us or being violent but not with delivering babies,” she said. “I was a firefighter during high school, and that training helped me learn how to handle high-pressure situations. I definitely want to continue working in public safety so I can have a positive impact on people. I want to do something big that will make a difference like fighting against child trafficking or terrorism, and I plan to be on a SWAT team one day or make it on a fire crew.”
Lopez came to Utah from Colorado when her brother moved here to finish high school and study welding at Weber Basin Job Corps Center. She attended the same institution, choosing office administration. After graduation, she joined U Health Security.
Officer Lopez will celebrate her first anniversary at the U in October. Some people may think she is courageous for what she did. For Lopez, she was doing her job in the right place at the right time.
“Maybe I was meant to be there,” she said.