Avera Medical Minute: Snow Plows Escort Pregnant Mom to Avera St. Mary’s

Published: Jan. 17, 2023 at 7:58 AM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - In mid-December, Mary and Tanner Hilton of Pierre were getting ready to welcome their second child into the world.

Once Mary’s labor pains started, they encountered a slight problem.

“It was pretty white out at that point,” said Tanner. “I was reading all the broadcasts about how bad it was out and I wasn’t really sure how we were going to get to town.”

The day the Hilton’s new bundle of joy decided he was ready to make his grand entrance turned out to be one of the worst blizzards Pierre had seen in decades.

“We prayed for a white Christmas this year to bring a baby into the world and it was a little more white than we had anticipated,” Mary said.

Over a foot’s worth of snow was already piling up outside their home.

“I was definitely worried and concerned,” added Tanner. “I did not want to have a baby at the house.”

Knowing they couldn’t get out by themselves, the Hiltons reached out for help.

It turns out, they just so happened to know someone who might be able to help.

Craig Price, the Cabinet Secretary for the South Dakota Department of Public Safety helped guide them in the right direction.

“He’s my parents’ next-door neighbor,” said Mary. “He told my parents that we should call 911 and 911 got us hooked up with the plows.”

Plow drivers with the South Dakota Department of Transportation sprang into action.

“Everything else took a back seat so that we could send help her way and get it plowed open so they can get to Pierre safely,” said Les Winsell, the SDDOT Highway Maintenance Supervisor in Pierre.

Winsell and his crew of two others - Kyle Willis and Steve Withers - worked through blowing snow with zero visibility and 40 to 50-mile-per-hour winds to help get the Hiltons dug out as Mary’s labor pains were intensifying.

For Winsell, this was now personal. “I had a kid in a blizzard in ‘96 so I know exactly how she feels,” he said.

That little tidbit Mary didn’t know until we met with her to share her story. “That’s amazing! I think every single piece of this experience was just miraculous. There wasn’t anything normal. Every single step along the way felt like an obstacle. It was just surreal so it doesn’t surprise me that something as amazing was just added to this story,” she said.

The youngest addition to the Hilton family is now doing well after his dramatic debut.

The staff at Avera St. Mary’s Hospital in Pierre was able to help the Hiltons through delivery as soon as they arrived at the hospital.

“This was a miracle. By the grace of God,” said Dr. Amy Lueking, an Obstetrics & Gynecology Specialist. “The team pulled together. We trained for this, but for everything to go as well as it did, was just a blessing. I’m always impressed and humbled with the heroes that we live with and work with in this community.”

The Hiltons are now adjusting to being a family of four with plenty of gratitude in their hearts.

“The plow drivers, the hospital, our community, everyone throughout our whole process, we don’t ever have enough ‘Thank yous,’ we are so blessed to live in the state of South Dakota to have the friendly community members that we do,” said Mary.

For more information about Labor & Delivery at Avera St. Mary’s Hospital in Pierre, head over to www.Avera.org/MedicalMinute.