Baby starts his life in the express lane

Jabnia Sanchez's plan to rush to the hospital came unraveled as she sped down Interstate 394 in Minneapolis.

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Jabnia Sanchez held her newborn son, Enzi, who was born in a minivan on the way to the hospital Wednesday. At right is her two-year-old daughter, Kiomy.

Photo: Renee Jones Schneider, Star Tribune

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Katie Herrera-Falksen knew there was little time to spare as she sped down Interstate 394 amid Wednesday morning commuters.

Her sister-in-law, Jabnia Sanchez, was lying across the minivan's back seat, ready to give birth. Sanchez's husband, Alejandro Herrera, was rushing from work to meet them at Hennepin County Medical Center.

But the contractions were coming quickly and getting stronger. "I wanted to scream," Sanchez said. But with her 2 1/2 -year-old daughter, Kiomy, in the car, Sanchez remained calm. Inside, she was freaking out. "I just wanted to make it to the hospital," she said.

Suddenly, Sanchez knew she couldn't stop the inevitable. "Call 911. The baby's coming," she called out as they made their way down the express lane at a 75 mile-per-hour clip. As Herrera-Falksen dialed, Sanchez called out again. "I'm pushing."

Herrera-Falksen pulled off along the interstate near the Penn Avenue exit rather than risk delivering a baby inside the Lowry tunnel. Sanchez's mother, Tely Alva, who was in the front passenger seat, climbed into the back, past Kiomy and Herrera-Falksen's month-old baby, Camila.

"He's coming out. The baby's here," Alva said through tears. "The baby's head. The baby's head." Herrera-Falksen quickly got to the back seat and tried to remember what had needed to be done after giving birth to her firstborn.

She held the baby's head. Sanchez pushed. Then Herrera-Falksen grabbed the baby's shoulders.

And just like that, at 9:05 a.m., while morning commuters sped by on a stretch of interstate, an 8-pound, 3-ounce baby boy was born and quickly bundled in a blanket Herrera-Falksen unwrapped from her own infant.

Newborn Enzi was breathing and crying and the women in the minivan knew all was right with the world.

mlsmith@startribune.com • 612-673-4788 pwalsh@startribune.com • 612-673-4482

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