2018-09-22 / Features

WELCOMING A HURRICANE BABY

BY KELLY SNOW
COURIER-TIMES SPORTS EDITOR

As Tres Ramirez looked down at his wife, Person High School volleyball coach Amanda Ramirez, holding their brand new baby boy, he shook his head, smiled and shared a simple, but heartfelt sentiment.

“I know he’s only been here a week, but I just cannot imagine my life without him.”

Blake Anderson Ramirez made his world debut in the early hours of Friday morning, Sept. 14 just as Hurricane Florence was battering the Carolina coastline, but the story truly begins in history class almost nine years earlier.

GETTING THE FLORIDA BOY’S ATTENTION

Tres was a self-professed nerd — but a nerdy jock. He was an outstanding baseball player and joined the Wingate University team after a successful stint at Daytona State College. It was a team rule at Daytona State that players had to sit within the first three rows in every class — but Tres brought that habit with him to his new school and went one step further. He would get to class early, long before anyone else, and claim the center seat in the front row. Tres would open up his books, start studying and was practically oblivious to everything else in the room.


Tres and Amanda Ramirez are all smiles as they show off their son, Blake Anderson Ramirez. Blake was born just the effects of Hurricane Florence reached the area. PHOTOS BY KELLY SNOW | COURIER-TIMES Tres and Amanda Ramirez are all smiles as they show off their son, Blake Anderson Ramirez. Blake was born just the effects of Hurricane Florence reached the area. PHOTOS BY KELLY SNOW | COURIER-TIMES But someone was noticing.

Amanda Clark made her way to Wingate, a Division II volleyball power, after creating a legacy at Person High School. She was the setter on the program’s first-ever state championship team and won Most Valuable Player honors in the title game after a brilliant performance in the victory against Charlotte Providence. A week earlier, she led the Rockets to an inspiring win against Chapel Hill in the regional semifinals, a day after flipping her Jeep onto a rock on her way to class at Piedmont Community College.

That rock, now painted Rocket Blue, sits outside the gym where she served as head coach of the volleyball program before stepping away to take an assistant role this year.

But in that history class, Amanda was paying attention to the studious baseball player in the front row and decided she was going to meet him.

She just bumped into him one day before class — of course, it was on purpose.

From there, they met, studied together from time to time until they went their separate ways after the fall semester.

And then she sent the Florida boy a text.

“We had each other’s phone numbers from studying, I looked down at my phone and the prettiest girl in that class texted me on Christmas break and was asking how my break was going,” Tres said. “I said, ‘my gosh, this girl just texted me.’ I texted my brother, I didn’t know what to think. No girl ever texted me.”

Amanda would soon be Tres’s girlfriend and about two and a half years later, the two would be married at the very same church that her grandfather helped build and where parents, Frank and Rhonda Clark, exchanged vows.

A VOLLEYBALL-SIZED BABY BUMP

Amanda laid out her future plans when she was still in high school.

After she finished up her college career, she wanted to return home, teach in Person County and lead the volleyball program where she won a state championship.

All of that happened.

She’s a fifth-grade teacher at Helena Elementary and is coming off two outstanding seasons as the Rockets’ coach, highlighted by last year’s Mid-State Conference championship and regional finals appearance.

When Amanda became pregnant with the couple’s first child, she made the decision to hand over the program to her assistant coach Tracey Vaughan. Amanda was still a presence around the program, but farther along in her pregnancy, she stopped going on road games and was at practice less and less.

But she was still at almost all of the home games — with an ever-growing baby bump with a child who was measuring practically off the charts.

“Did you see me at the games?,” Amanda said. “You couldn’t miss me. The last few weeks were rough, especially when school started back. At the beginning of the season, I was at everything, but it had to taper off. By the end of the day, I would feel so bad. When you’re carrying a gigantic baby with all of the additional strain on the body, it was rough. We never did anything that would endanger (the baby). We talked to the doctors about it and (coaching) was fine as long as I could tolerate it.”

Amanda has indicated that she would like to eventually return to coaching, but is pleased with the direction of the program under her protege.

“I think (Blake would) make a cute little waterboy,” Amanda said. “Tracey’s been doing a really great job of carrying on the tradition of the program. I’m proud of what she’s been doing and I’m proud of the girls for staying the course and not letting a coaching position change change things too much. It can go one of two ways. You can get a new coach and that new coach comes in and wants to change everything and the girls have to fall into place, or you have someone who understands what works and still puts their own twist on things to make it their own, but keep things that are working that keeps things successful.”

TIME TO GO

In the days leading up to Hurricane Florence’s landfall,

Amanda was hearing the same thing from everyone that she would be delivering Blake during the storm

And she wasn’t having it.

Blake’s scheduled Cesarean Section was penciled in on Amanda’s calendar for Wednesday, Sept. 19 at 12:30 p.m. and the soon-tobe mom was determined that appointment would be kept. Her doctor, Nancy MacLaurin from Duke Obstetrics and Gynecology, informed the Ramirezs during their last appointment that she would only be on call on Thursday and Friday and the day of her appointment.

Any other day, Blake would be delivered by someone else — and that was a deal-breaker for Amanda.

“I wanted to prove everyone wrong (who said that he would be born during the hurricane),” Amanda said. “He wasn’t coming out until next Wednesday. Literally, everyone was saying, ‘he’s coming this weekend.’ I told (Dr. MacLaurin) that if he decides to come early, he’s going to have to come on one of those two days because I’m not having anyone deliver this baby. She was so amazing.”

Blake did his mom and dad a solid.

Amanda started having contractions late in the evening Thursday night and after a few hours of tracking contractions on sticky notes, they left for the hospital in wee-hours of Friday morning.

The worst of the hurricane in the Triangle area was still several hours away, but as the Ramirezs made the trip from their Timberlake home to Duke University Hospital, it was quiet.

According to Tres, there was hardly anyone out except policemen and the emergency room at Duke was empty, minus a few people sleeping in the waiting room. Tres wondered if everyone had already abandoned the state. They fully expected to get to the hospital and be told that this was a false alarm — but that proved not to be the case.

At around 4:30 a.m., the Amanda and Tres welcomed a 9-pound, 4-ounce, 22-inch baby boy into the world.

“It was amazing,” Amanda said. “I was relieved. I don’t know if that was the right emotion, but I was relieved that he was out and then I heard him cry. People say that when you hear the baby crying, that he’s all good. That’s when the relief really washed over. Then, we I got to hold him, and we got to do the skinto skin time, it was the best feeling ever.”

Blake’s arrival beat the hurricane, but there were still a few trying moments.

Early Monday morning, she and the rest of the new mothers were forced into the hallway after a tornado warning was issued for the area. Nothing came of it, except interrupting Amanda’s breakfast.

They were planning to be discharged from the hospital on Monday, but were told by Amanda’s father, Frank, that they would be arriving to a house with no power. The storm temporarily knocked out the power in some areas of Timberlake, but when they got word that the lights were back on, they made their plans to take Blake home.

But there was still a problem — flooding.

The new grandfather, took care of that.

Frank drove about halfway to the hospital, charting a path and reporting back to them which roads to take to get home and the ones to avoid.

They made it home safely and have started their new life as a family of three.

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