By Meredith March, 66th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
/ Published September 30, 2008
HANSCOM AFB, Mass. -- While every child's birth could be considered unique and dramatic, few deliveries involve three babies, a deployed father-to-be, support from two U.S. Air Force bases and an international race against time. When Jennifer Geisel went into labor on May 2, as her husband, Captain Andrew Geisel, 651st Electronic Systems Squadron contracting officer, made his way home from a tour of duty in Afghanistan, Air Force personnel at two bases, including Hanscom, made sure the captain was with his wife when their triplets were born.
The Geisels had been at Hanscom just over a year in Nov. 2007, when Captain Geisel was tasked to deploy to Afghanistan for six months. The couple learned Mrs. Geisel was pregnant just before they packed up their car and drove to Great Falls, Mont., where Mrs. Geisel would stay with her family during the deployment.
"We drove across the country and as soon as we got there, we went to the doctor for an ultrasound," Mrs. Geisel said. "So, my husband was able to be there for the first ultrasound. That's when we discovered there were three babies."
While Mrs. Geisel's due date was July 1, triplets are typically delivered early to avoid complications, she said. Captain Geisel was scheduled to return in mid-May. "We didn't think he was going to make it home in time [to see the babies' births]. We thought he was going to miss out."
He very nearly did.
When Mrs. Geisel was placed on full bed rest in March, Captain Geisel was able to arrange to return a week earlier than planned, Mrs. Geisel said. The couple had decided that the captain would return to Hanscom, complete his in-processing, arrange for on-base housing and remove their belongings from storage, then fly to Great Falls for the births. He was waiting for airflow in Kurdistan on April 28 when Mrs. Geisel began having contractions and was admitted to the hospital.
When her doctor indicated that the babies were in position to be born, "Plans started to change quite quickly," Mrs. Geisel said. "My brother, who is a master sergeant at Malmstrom Air Force Base, contacted his first shirt, who got the ball rolling to contact my husband -- who was en route and thinking everything was fine."
Captain Geisel's supervisors at Hanscom also sprang into action, Mrs. Geisel said. "When my husband landed in Germany on May 2, he was pulled aside and told to call Lt. Col. Jeffrey Frye [651 ELSS deputy director]. Colonel Frye told my husband not to come to Hanscom, but to get to Great Falls as soon as he landed in the U.S. because I was going to deliver."
Captain Geisel's supervisor, Rex H. Steves, 651 ELSS contracts chief, kept in contact with Mrs. Geisel's family, providing up-to-the-minute information for Captain Geisel and those helping at Hanscom. "He was helping us out the whole time. He actually called my father for updates," Mrs. Geisel said.
While Captain Geisel made his way to Montana, Mrs. Geisel waited as patiently as she could.
"My doctor knew that Drew was deployed throughout the whole pregnancy and I told him, 'There's no way I'm going to deliver these kids until my husband gets home.' So, he had the whole surgical team all ready in scrubs just waiting for my husband to get there," Mrs. Geisel said.
On the morning of May 3, Mrs. Geisel's father drove to the airport to escort the captain to the hospital. He had contacted the airline to request that Captain Geisel be first to exit the plane. The request was honored, and immediately after he received his luggage, he was hospital-bound.
"My hospital room overlooked the parking lot, so my mother, sister-in-law and brother were just glued to the window," Mrs. Geisel said. "As soon as they said, 'He's here,' I started crying. I was thinking, 'This is it.' He was there after 31 hours in the air. They threw scrubs on him and wheeled me in to the operating room, and about 20 minutes later we had the babies."
The frenzied trip and ensuing fatigue was definitely worth the outcome, Captain Geisel said. "Both of us were absolutely physically exhausted - that whole day was just a blur - but it felt great to be there."
Being able to share the births of Rylee, Cole, and Alexandria with her husband was especially meaningful to Mrs. Geisel because he was only able to share the pregnancy's developments via phone and email, she said. "I really felt that he deserved to be there. He missed out on the entire pregnancy and my feeling was that I owed it to him to make sure that he was there for the delivery. Having my husband there made the whole event and delivery complete."
Sharing the children's births was equally meaningful for Captain Geisel.
"You hear stories all the time about men who miss their children's births, and I did not want to be one of those men," he said. "It was very important to me to be there."
Because the triplets were born premature and each weighed just 3 ½ pounds they were admitted to the neo-natal intensive care unit, where they stayed for a few weeks. Mrs. Geisel credits friends at Hanscom for coming to their aid a second time.
"We were very lucky; Hanscom really helped us out, especially Colonel Frye and Mr. Steves," she said. "Because the kids were really ill, Hanscom was able to give my husband quite a number of days of emergency leave to stay in Montana so we could take care of them and so he could help me recuperate. We were able to stay with the kids until they were all discharged from the hospital."
The couple is grateful to both Hanscom and Malmstrom personnel for the extraordinary services rendered to their young family.
"Everyone likes to say that the Air Force is just one big family. It feels like just a saying until things like this happen and everyone steps up and gets things done," Captain Geisel said. "We were really floored and are unbelievably grateful for all everybody did for us."
"So many people worked together to ensure that Drew would be there and able to help take care of the kids and me," Mrs. Geisel said. "Both Air Force bases are phenomenal. The support has been tremendous."