Liam Rajala was seemingly late to arrive. It turns out, however, he was right on time to be the first baby delivered at the new CHI St. Joseph’s hospital. Dickinson’s newest resident — a 21½-inch boy weighing 9 pounds, 6 ounces — was born at 9:09 p.m. Monday. Liam was delivered by Dr. Thomas Arnold a little more than an hour after the hospital officially opened.
“He was a week late. I thought he’d be born in the old one,” Lorina Rajala, Liam’s mother, said Tuesday afternoon as her husband, Brad, held their son in their postpartum room.
Brad said when his wife went into labor at home Monday afternoon, she had to call the hospital to determine where she’d have to go for the birth. They sent her to the new facility on Fairway Street.
At 8 p.m. Monday, patients of all ages — including the final baby born at the old hospital on West Seventh Street — were transferred to the new building in buses and ambulances. Liam arrived right in the midst of the commotion.
Arnold estimates he has delivered between 5,000 and 6,000 babies in his career — about 5,000 of them during his 27 years with St. Joseph’s — and said “I’m proud and I’m honored,” to have delivered the first baby at the new hospital.
The Rajalas, like so many others in the community, moved to Dickinson about three-and-a-half years ago. Originally from Michigan, Brad works for Savannah Well Service while Lorina is a stay-at-home mom for 3-year-old Grant, 2-year-old Caden and, now, newborn Liam.
Deb Bolin, the hospital’s director of obstetrics, said nurses and staff were prepared for Liam to come into the world.
“We had just gotten here, but we’d set up everything yesterday. We had all the rooms ready to go, so when we got her (Lorina) that quickly, we were set then,” Bolin said. “We were actually better set up here than we were at the old hospital. Everything went smoothly because we were ready to go.”
On Tuesday, Bolin and obstetrics nurses presented the Rajalas with a basket full of diapers, clothes, toys and books, among other newborn necessities, as a gift for having the first baby at the new hospital.
“It’s really neat to be able to have that experience,” Lorina said.