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Helm's daughter born in car on I-96

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Red Wings forward Darren Helm holds his newborn daughter, Rylee, on Monday morning. (Photo courtesy of the Helm family)

DETROIT – Every time Darren Helm drives by mile marker 160 near the Beck Road exit on Interstate 96 he’ll be reminded of the time his youngest daughter uniquely entered the world.

Rylee Klaire Helm, weighed six pounds, 10 ounces when she made her extraordinary debut at 2:15 Monday morning in the backseat of her dad’s black four-door Audi.

“I don’t think I’ve been more nervous in my life and scared,” the Red Wings’ forward said. “I didn’t really have a chance to think about it until after. … I was petrified. But things ended up working out great.”

Sunday evening began as a relatively quiet one for Helm, his longtime girlfriend, Devon Englot, and their 3 ½-year-old daughter, Reece.

Understandably tired from Sunday’s thrilling overtime win against St. Louis, Helm retired early to bed. However, sometime after midnight he was awakened by Devon, who told him that the baby was coming – about eight days sooner than the March 31 due date.

“Pretty tired from the game and she kind of woke me up and told me things were kind of happening, but not really fast,” Helm said. “So we kind of took our time.”

Helm phoned Providence Park Hospital in Novi to let the staff know that the couple was en route. Then, as he gathered some essentials and began helping Devon into the backseat of the car, the situation took a drastic turn.

Things escaladed and Helm’s only thought was to quickly get Devon to the hospital before the baby was born.

“Devon kept on saying that she had the urge to push,” Helm said. “They said when the baby’s ready, the baby’s ready. She can’t really control much about it. We tried to make it there. She tried to hold her back. 

"They’ve always told us the second one comes quicker, but we didn’t expect it to be that quick.”

With the hospital some 20 miles from his home, Helm barreled down the freeway, his nerves frayed and his girlfriend screaming in pain as her contractions were now longer, closer together and more extreme. It was the most harrowing moment of his 28-year-old life.

“By far, I mean, you’ve got a woman in back screaming to ‘get me to the hospital!’ and yelling that the baby is coming out,” Helm said. “It was pretty intense.”

The baby wasn’t waiting another minute more as her head began to emerge.

About a mile away from the hospital, a frantic Helm pulled the car to the shoulder of the freeway, where Devon did the rest.

“It came on so quick,” Helm said. “We thought we had lots of time to get to the hospital and things just took a turn and the baby was ready to come out to say hello and that’s what she did.”

Asked if he had any part in the delivery, Helm said, “Nope. It was all her by herself. It was just me with her in the car and she was able to take care of business. It is very remarkable and incredible.

“I was just trying to get to the hospital as quick as I could.”

Helm estimates that the couple was on the side of I-96 for maybe five minutes before he rushed mom and their newborn daughter to the hospital.

Three-year-old Reece Helm gets a look at her new sister, Rylee, on Monday afternoon in Novi, Mich. Baby and mom, Devon Englot, are both doing well following their harrowing freeway ordeal. (Photo courtesy of the Helm family)

“We got to the ER and they kept assuring us that things were going to be OK after they got a good look at the baby and Devon was feeling good,” he said. “After that things slowly calmed down. It took us awhile to kind of get over what happened, but things are moving along pretty well.

“It’s just a huge relief. Five minutes too late to the hospital things could have got a lot worse, but luckily, fortunately, things worked out in the right way for us. Couldn’t be happier with the way things turned out and we have a pretty funny story now that we think about it.”

Helm’s teammates and coaches knew he had become a father for the second time, but they didn’t know the particulars until Tuesday morning.

“Can you just imagine?” coach Mike Babcock asked rhetorically. “He was great. He told the story today. We’ve had a family program before home games all year basically, where guys present. He’s already done it but he sat down today and presented the story and the guys loved it and it was a lot of fun to hear him talk.”

Helm will play tonight when the Red Wings host the Arizona Coyotes at Joe Louis Arena. By then he hopes to have his mind fully engaged in the game again.

“Yeah, I definitely haven’t been thinking about hockey for the last (while),” he said. “My mind is definitely on her and get home today. It will be the first time she’s home. Just everybody’s so happy. It’s such a great feeling. Real proud of Devon and what she did. Even my daughter, my older daughter, she’s just so happy and excited to be a big sister.”

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