BEAUMONT, Texas — Flood-weary Beaumont has a new resident — and if that 8-pound, 10 ounce baby boy could only talk, he’d have a heck of a birthday story to tell.
Beaumont has endured an awful week. Tropical Storm Harvey dumped several feet of rain in the region, leaving sections of this southeast Texas community both inundated and isolated. As of Tuesday, clean water service had not been entirely restored here.
But Kallen and Dru Wheeler’s expectant baby boy wasn’t interested in waiting out the rains. Dru went into labor last Tuesday morning even as the storm was raging across Beaumont.
Labor pains are stressful for families under the best of circumstances. But Dru’s contractions began “even as the flood waters in our home were just starting to rise,” said Kallen, a Beaumont dentist.
The Wheelers, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, knew the baby was on its way. “When we saw the water coming in it was a shock, so we said a quick prayer,” said Dru. “I knew I needed to get to the hospital.”
Kallen called 911 in hopes of securing an ambulance to transport Dru to the hospital. No luck. The only available vehicle at that treacherous moment was a high-clearance emergency truck. With an EMT riding shotgun, the truck driver navigated across flooded streets to the Wheeler’s home.
Dru was carefully lifted into the cab of the truck, but there was no room for Kallen, and their 2-year-old son, Jonas. The young father and son returned to their home to move as many valuables above the rising waterline. Then they jumped into the family SUV, intent on joining up with Dru at Beaumont’s Baptist Hospital.
The SUV never made it. During their drive storm waters flooded the vehicle and the engine gave out. With the help of a few strangers, Kallen was able to push the stalled SUV to a reasonably dry spot, but it still wouldn’t start.
Undeterred, Kallen lifted Jonas atop his shoulders and started walking in the direction of the hospital.
“A guy pulled up, told me he wouldn’t let us keep walking, and picked us up,” said Kallen. “He was a stranger — just a Good Samaritan.”
Kallen and Jonas went to the man’s house where they were given dry towels and something to eat. Then Kallen called a friend who owns a high-clearance truck and asked for a ride to the hospital.
Meanwhile, Dru had arrived safely at the hospital. She hadn’t planned on delivering the baby without her husband at her side. But she was comforted to learn Kallen and Jonas were safe and dry. “And the nurses at the hospital were awesome,” she added.
By the time the friend arrived to pick up Kallen, Baby Noah was ready for his own arrival. No time to wait. But with the help of the nursing staff, the Wheeler’s connected on their cell phones via FaceTime. Moments later, Kallen witnessed, electronically, the birth of his second son.
“I consider us to be pretty blessed,” he said. “And I was ecstatic to be a part of that experience.”
Both mom and baby made it through the delivery in great shape — and the family was reunited at the hospital about 30 minutes later.
Dru and the baby were discharged two days later, just moments before Baptist Hospital had to be evacuated. The Wheeler home suffered some water damage, but not enough to force them out. They’re using fans around the house to dry everything.
And the little flood survivor's name? Noah Harvey Wheeler.
The couple had planned to name their baby Noah long before the rains came down and the floods came up across Beaumont. Any connection between the newborn and an ancient, flood-savvy prophet is purely coincidental, laughed Kallen.
But the child’s middle name Harvey was a stormy birthday surprise. It will forever serve as a reminder of a remarkable day of floods and blessings.