Baby born in Vicksburg hospital to evacuees celebrates turning 10

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 30, 2015

Ten years ago, Ted and Jamie Swindler were forced to evacuate their Metairie, La. home, despite some very important plans — Jamie was expecting her first child.

Ted said while en route to stay with family in Jacksonville, Texas, his wife began going into labor. Cell phones weren’t working and the family was stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, but their son-to-be T.J. wasn’t waiting.

When Ted tried dialing 911, he got through. He was told he was 14 miles south of River Region Medical Center on U.S. 61 in Vicksburg.

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“I put my flashers on and went on the shoulder — I had to be very aggressive. This was my first child — I was panicky,” Ted told The Vicksburg Post in 2005.

Looking back, Ted said he remembers gunshots, cursing and unique hand gestures, from evacuees who thought he was just trying to skip the line.

When Jamie got to the hospital, labor was induced, and just 15 minutes later Ted got a call from his alarm company, informing him the windows of his home had been shattered and his roof blown off. Then, another 15 minutes later at 9:56 a.m., Edward “T.J.” Joseph Swindler IV was born.

For the Swindler family, Aug. 29 is a bittersweet day, full of mixed emotions.

The day is the anniversary of T.J.’s birth, but it’s also the day the family lost everything they owned to Hurricane Katrina.

Ted said even though their family lost a lot, including the family bakery, the storm wasn’t a totally bad thing for the Swindler family.

“Around here, most people don’t like to celebrate,” he said. “It’s not a celebrating thing, but for us it’s T.J.’s birthday.”

Ted described T.J. as the glue that held everything together during the storm and its aftermath.

“All we really had left at that point was family,” he said. “We had T.J. and that was something else.”

Ted said the first month of T.J.’s life he was basically homeless.

T.J. Swindler

T.J. Swindler

“He had a place to stay, but not one of his own,” he said. “It was tough, but when you have a newborn, and you hold him, you don’t think about that.”

The storm offered other new beginnings for the Swindler family too, including new careers and a chance to reconnect with their family in Texas.

“Things have been better for us since then,” he said. “It’s funny how when you have something positive, positive things come from it, and that was T.J.”

Ted and his family decided not to reopen the bakery, and he instead went into landscaping, which it turns out he likes much more anyway.

When the family moved back, they landed in Slidell, La., another suburb of New Orleans, and T.J. now has a little sister, Ava, 6.

Ted said he and his family will never forget the hospitality shown to them in Vicksburg.

“There was a church that took the rest of our family in,” he said. “Everybody in the hospital treated us so good. I’m pretty sure the hospital let us stay a day or two longer than we were supposed to.”

As for T.J., he said he enjoys hearing the stories of his unexpected birth and the time he spent in Mississippi.

T.J.’s family often reminds him he’s a blessing, especially around his birthday, he said. “I’m just happy we actually survived it.”