WASHINGTON — Thomas Duboyce’s unique bond with Officer Robert Hunt goes back about as far as it can go — Nov. 13, 1999.
That’s when the Montgomery County police officer helped Duboyce’s mother give birth along Interstate 270.
Cute-emergency-baby-delivery stories are nothing new, but this one has a true element of peril to it: Duboyce could have died. His umbilical cord had been wrapped around his throat. If Officer Hunt hadn’t been there to clear it, Duboyce’s life would have ended before it started.
But on Friday, Hunt was on hand to watch as a full-grown and very-much-alive Duboyce accepted his diploma from Oakdale High School in Frederick County, Maryland.
“It was good to see him, especially after 18 years,” Hunt said. “Good kid.”
Their story began as a routine late-night traffic stop on northbound I-270 near Middlebrook Road. Hunt was just doing the job when a minivan pulled over nearby.
As Hunt remembers it, a frantic driver approached, saying: “My wife’s in labor. I don’t know what to do.”
Hunt grabbed a pair of rubber gloves, followed Joe Duboyce (now deceased) back to the minivan and saw that the delivery was well underway already.
“Tommy was ready to come out,” Hunt said, who removed the cord, cleared Thomas’s airway and got him to breathe.
The ambulance showed up and the anxious beginning had a happy ending.
“It was an interesting time,” the officer remarked.
Since that delivery along I-270, the now-grown-up graduate’s family and the now-24-year police veteran have stayed in contact. The occasional visit, then — after the family moved out to Frederick County — an exchange of Christmas cards.
Then recently, another officer texted Hunt a picture. It was a picture from one of those visits with little Tommy Duboyce.
“Is this you in my kid’s yearbook?” the text read.
Turns out, that colleague was a parent at Oakdale High. He was nice enough to score Robert Hunt a ticket to graduation so he could see Thomas Robert Duboyce (guess where that middle name came from) walk across the stage and receive his high school diploma.
The happy graduate had no idea Hunt was going to show up to the ceremony. He was basking in his special moment when a teacher approached and said someone wanted to see him.
“I was very confused but also curious,” Duboyce said. “So I went over, and when I saw him, I recognized him from pictures and stuff … It was nice to see him after so long.”
Duboyce knew about his birth along I-270.
A birth on the side of an interstate is great material for good-natured jokes, obviously. But the grad didn’t know one big detail — the fact that he almost died.
“I didn’t even know it was that serious, but obviously thank God he was there, or else I wouldn’t be here now,” Duboyce said.
The pair shook hands and went their separate ways. The graduate is looking ahead to attending Salisbury University, where he’ll be studying environmental science.
As for Officer Hunt, he’s got another shift coming up for the Montgomery County Police Department, the very same shift he was on back on Nov. 13, 1999.
He prefers it that way. Some colleagues might long for a job at a desk or as a detective. He prefers to work the streets.
After all, that’s where he helped a frantic couple and their newborn through a very tough spot.
“It’s probably the highlight of my career,” he said. “If that’s the only thing that had happened, it would’ve been worth the 24 years of doing police work.”
WTOP’s Kristi King contributed to this report.
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