It was just another day at work for Miriam Cousino, until one phone call changed everything.
That's when the emergency dispatcher learned that a baby had been born in a van on the Ravenel Bridge, and the caller spoke limited English.
"I'm surprised that I didn't sound scared and freaked out and nervous," Cousino said of Wednesday's events. "In my head, I was all of those things."
On the way to the hospital, Maria Gonzales had given birth to her daughter in the back seat of a Plymouth Voyager. Her friend, Mery Martinez, called for help.
During the almost 18-minute emergency call, Cousino remained on the phone. At one point, she talked Martinez through the steps needed to keep both mother and child safe, which included using a drawstring from a pair of pants to tie off the umbilical cord.
"With her having the baby right then and there, it really wasn't just her life on the line, it was the baby's," Cousino said. "If anything would have happened to the baby, the mother's mental state may not have been where she needed to be. Getting her help as soon as possible was the top priority."
Cousino has been a dispatcher for Charleston County for 3 1/2 years. She said she credits her calm response to extensive training.
Her boss, Allyson Burrell, deputy director of Charleston's Consolidated 911 Center, agreed that training played an important role in Cousino's reaction to the call. But she also credited Cousino's personality and work ethic.
"Miriam is very compassionate and really listens to the caller. She tries to pick up on information going on in the background," Burrell said, "We are truly blessed to have Miriam."
Burrell said calls involving a birth are not as rare as one might think. However, there were some factors that made this phone call more challenging.
"What really makes this call unusual is not only that it was happening on the bridge, it was that we were dealing with a Hispanic caller who could not speak English well," Burrell said.
But before Cousino could seek assistance from a translator, she had to find out Gonzales' location. It was due to Cousino's strong active listening skills and cool head in stressful situations that helped her locate Gonzales, Burrell said.
Though Cousino said her job can be stressful, she said she loves helping those on the other side of the line.
"I'm very shy when I talk to someone in person, so being on the other side of things, rather than being there in person, is really the best fit for me," she said.
Her advice to anyone who has to call 911?
Be aware of your surroundings.
"You might be out in the middle of nowhere, but if you remember the last building or road that you passed and how long it's been since you passed it, it will help us because then we can get people there faster."