CORAOPOLIS, Pennsylvania — Leo McCarthy claims he was only the "catcher's mitt."
For John and Nancy Kutzner, he was a lifesaver.
McCarthy, then a Moon Township patrol sergeant, was working the night shift 18 years ago when John pulled into the police station parking lot with his very pregnant wife.
"I will never forget that day," said McCarthy, now the Moon Township police chief.
At 12:15 p.m. Aug. 20, 1996, McCarthy ushered the Kutzners' baby girl into the world.
"I never delivered a baby before," he said. "It happened so suddenly."
Now that baby, Jodi Kutzner, is a college freshman who has an amazing story of her birth — as well as a unique connection to a local law enforcement officer.
Jodi's parents were headed to the hospital from their Oakdale home when Nancy realized the baby was coming sooner than later.
"My mom said, 'I cannot make it, there is no possible way,'" Jodi said. So her father pulled into their only option, the Moon Township police station.
According to McCarthy, John ran into the lobby and told officers his wife was having a baby and needed help. McCarthy rushed out to the Kutzner's car and looked at Nancy. He told her not to worry, that the ambulance was on its way.
Nancy already had two children, and she knew the baby wasn't going to wait. She looked at him and said, "No, I'm having this baby now."
So McCarthy situated the mother-to-be as best he could. A state trooper who had been at the station cradled Nancy's head on the passenger side of the car, and McCarthy leaned into the car from the driver's side. As Nancy's sweatpants were removed and he moved in, he said the baby's head was immediately in his hands.
"Boom! There's this baby head in my hand," McCarthy recalled.
However, he immediately noticed the purplish umbilical cord around the baby's neck. The baby naturally moved to the side and just like that, Jodi was born.
"This little human being was extremely slippery," McCarthy said. "I was holding on to her with everything I had."
Although he said the baby was animated, moving her fingers and toes, McCarthy — who had no children and had never delivered a baby — knew he had to stimulate her breathing. He took a deep breath and blew into the baby's face, and she started to cry.
Jodi was breathing.
McCarthy looked at Nancy and announced she had a new baby girl.
Paramedics arrived and took over in assisting the family. As he walked back to the station to clean up, McCarthy passed the car and heard Nancy call out, "Thank you, Leo."
Healthy and happy, Jodi and her mom made it through her first year. When it was time to celebrate her first birthday, Nancy and John decided to invite McCarthy to the party to thank him for his help.
McCarthy still remembers how the sheet cake was decorated: A police station with an ambulance off in the distance on the other side of the cake.
About the time Jodi turned 16, McCarthy contacted Nancy and asked if it would be OK to send her a birthday gift. Of course, Nancy consented, and McCarthy mailed a DVD of a TV news interview from the night Jodi was born.
Jodi had never seen the newscast.
McCarthy also sent her a card and a gift of money. It meant a lot to Jodi to have a connection to such a generous police officer. Not only did he save her life, he stayed in contact.
Jodi graduated from West Allegheny High School in June, and was accepted to St. Francis University for the fall 2014 semester. When her family started to plan her high school graduation party, Nancy wanted to invite McCarthy to meet her daughter for a second time.
"My mom secretly invited him to my grad party," Jodi said.
When he arrived at the party, Nancy suggested Jodi talk to her guest, assuring her that she did, in fact, know him. When McCarthy identified himself, Jodi was thrilled.
"It was just wonderful," she said. "I had no idea he was coming. He was like a myth or legend and it was awesome to meet him."
Jodi said McCarthy has become a family friend and her parents are still thankful for his help in 1996.
While he maintains he was only the "catcher's mitt" in her birth, McCarthy remembers what he did that night fondly.
"Without question absolute best day of my career," he said. "... I didn't do anything except my duty."
McCarthy is proud of Jodi, calling her "accomplished, attractive and articulate."
Jodi is now at St. Francis University, where she is a member of the marching band. And as if fate played a role, she's studying to be a physician's assistant. She just may end up delivering a baby, too.
Now that McCarthy is the department chief, all Moon police officers carry a basic OB kit with gloves, a gown, a sterile pad and a utensil to clamp the umbilical cord.
"You never know when you might have to do something like that," he said.
Information from: Beaver County Times, http://www.timesonline.com/
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