A MOTHER told how a hospital worker caught her baby in a coat when she gave birth in a lift at Southend Hospital.

Nichola McCarthy, 29, and husband Jim, 32, were stunned by the speedy arrival of their baby girl Layla.

But perhaps it was meant to be for the family as Dad Jim used to work as a lift engineer.

Nichola went into early labour at home at around 10pm on Friday, January 2, but things progressed so quickly the couple faced a mad dash to the hospital from their Hockley home.

Nichola, of Rectory Road, said: “We got there really quickly and the moment we arrived my waters broke and I felt her head coming out.

“Jim ran into the hospital trying to find someone to help and grabbed a porter with a wheelchair.

“I was sitting in the car, it felt like the longest time and I was trying to hold her head in. I was just shouting for Jim.”

The couple made it to the lift just as little Layla started to arrive when Marta Szczepaniak, a healthcare assistant in the nearby stroke unit, ran to the rescue.

Mrs McCarthy said: “We were running down the corridor and I was shouting ‘the head’s coming’ and I was holding her head.

“This woman came from nowhere and caught the baby and wrapped her in her coat.

“She just seemed to appear. She had heard me screaming and came off her break to help. The baby just shot out, but Marta was a hero, she was my guardian angel.”

Layla was born a healthy 7lb 8oz in the early hours on Saturday, January 2 and is now at home safe and well.

Jim even toyed with naming her after the lift where she was born.

Nichola said: “Jim said we should call her Ellie after the elevator and then went to see the brand of the lift and it was an Abbey lift so we thought about that for a while, but settled in Layla.

“I can’t thank Marta enough. I was so relieved and excited. She and her colleagues came to see me later on and I’ve bought her a voucher for a new coat after she caught Layla in hers.”

The couple, who also have a three-year-old daughter couldn’t believe how quickly Layla arrived.

Nichola added: “With my last baby I was induced, but this time round I had no clue how quick it would happen. Neither did Jim.

Afterwards he said he wouldn’t have stopped at all the red lights had we known how quickly she would arrive.”

NICHOLA’S “guardian angel”

Marta Szczepaniak says she is proud to have been a part of the birth.

When she saw the McCarthy’s about to go into the lift, two floors below the maternity unit at Southend, Marta sprang into action.

Mrs Szczepaniak, 32, from Westcliff is a health care assistant.

She said: “I was on a night shift and just heading back to my ward when my colleague and I heard a woman scream and then scream again, we then saw another colleague appear with a woman in a wheelchair outside the lifts. I asked one of them to get some towels and another to get some help while I helped take Nichola’s pyjama bottoms down. From then I knew I’d have to deliver the baby as its head was on its way.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever delivered a baby and feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to help, the baby was then here and crying and I just made sure I kept her warm until the lift arrived. It left me with a really good feeling and I was there in maternity until the cord was cut and it was confirmed that both mother and baby were OK. I then went back to my shift.

“I’ve had massive pats on the back from colleagues, friends and family and I just feel so proud as a mum, a woman and as a member of nursing staff at Southend Hospital.

“Every day before and after my shift I would go and see them while they were in the hospital and even got to hold the baby girl again. I was really only doing my job.”