HILLSDALE, N.J. -- His wife has just given birth to their premature son in the passenger seat as Mauricio Ascuas of West Milford drove furiously through thick Ridgewood traffic, praying he'd find help getting to the hospital.
"I was going as fast as I could, but there was no way to get around the cars," Ascuas, 28, said Friday. "I was praying I'd see a police car -- anyone who could help us."
Fate intervened: Members of the Hillsdale Volunteer Ambulance Service were headed back to headquarters from The Valley Hospital at the same time.
Doctors at HUMC at Pascack Valley in Westwood a short time earlier had released 28-year-old Maria Ascuas on Tuesday, even though she'd insisted that their 33-week-old baby was on the way, her husband told Daily Voice.
"She's had two girls, so she knows, OK?" the former Woodland Park firefighter said.
Sure enough, Maria's water broke as they headed toward home.
So Ascuas spun the car around.
"I got the emergency lights on and I start seeing the baby's head. I said, 'You can't do this to me. You gotta hold it'," he said.
"I can't hold in no more," Maria told him. "The baby's coming!"
Up ahead was the ambulance.
"I started beeping the horn,"Ascuas said, "but they were in an ambulance. They're not gonna to notice.
"They stopped at the light [on East Saddle River Road], so I cut in front of them and got out of the car, yelling and waving my arms."
EMTs Mark Richards and Kim Pane, who was driving, didn't know what was happening at first .
So Ascuas began banging on the hood of the rig, shouting, "I need help!"
The pair emerged with colleague Michael Villegas as Ascuas ripped off his shirt and covered the newborn in his wife's lap ( see inset photo above ).
"I told them to give me some gloves and I would help," he said.
The baby "wasn't breathing," Ascuas said, "but they did their thing. They cut the cord, covered him up and put him and my wife in the ambulance. Then I followed them to the hospital.
"When we got there, I asked Richards, 'What's your name?' He said, 'Mark.' So I wanted to name him that.
"But my wife said she wanted Anthony -- and I wasn't going to go with Mark Anthony, for obvious reasons," the proud papa said, laughing.
Weighting in a five pounds, nine ounces, Anthony remained in infant ICU on Friday. All signs were good, his father said.
"They're calling him pequeño campeón ," he said. "Little champion."
Ascuas was heading over to the Hillsdale Volunteer Ambulance Service to personally thank the members when he called Daily Voice to tell his story.
"My son's good, thank God," he said, "and especially thanks to the people in that ambulance."
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