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Off duty OB nurse with cancer possibly delivers last baby

Audra Popp and Eric Rajkowski touring Rochester shortly before encountering a woman in labor.

Audra Popp and Eric Rajkowski touring Rochester
shortly before encountering a woman in labor.

A frantic call for help caused Audra Popp and her brother, Eric Rajkowski, to pause as they strolled back to the Hope Lodge July 23 after an evening at a Summer Market & Music Festival in Rochester, Minn.

A veteran labor and delivery nurse at St. Cloud Hospital, Audra noticed the positioning of the woman bent over outside Methodist Hospital and knew she was within minutes from having a baby.

“At that point, we ran across the street and Audra did what she was born to do,” said Eric, an EPIC Application Specialist for CentraCare Health.

Audra ensured help was on the way and obtained a pillow and blanket from bystanders. She noted the mother had lost a lot of blood and worked to keep her calm. After the delivery, Audra wrapped up and placed the pink, crying baby on mom’s chest.

Within a few minutes, a Mayo obstetrics team arrived and Audra provided delivery statistics — Apgar score, time of birth and estimated loss of blood. “My first concern was the safety of mom and baby,” said Audra.

“I’ve never witnessed a birth,” said Eric, “so it was really cool to see my sister in action. She was so calm under pressure.”

Audra said her brother was out of his element and was pacing like a new dad, but was helpful as well. He kept an eye on the mother’s belongings and notified security that her car was parked “cockeyed” nearby.

This was Audra’s first off-duty delivery, made all the more meaningful because she has been undergoing treatment for a rare form of brain cancer. “Due to my health, this could potentially be my last delivery,” said Audra. “God gave me a little gift — I was in the right place at the right time.”

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