This is a true story.
It happened two days after my father died while I sat next to him on his Hopsice bed, doing nothing in a situation where my training was screaming for me to do something.
This first part is based on talks I had with the baby's mother. I obviously don't know what 'Sandy' or her family was thinking but based on what they told me, I think I was pretty accurate.
The second part, starting with the tossing of the baby, is my first hand experience of that day. I am still confirming aspects of Part 2 with the guys I was working with that day. Just like me, they say the event is seared into their memory like it happened yesterday.
Like all Paramedics, I have many stories, compiled in 15 years as a Paramedic/Firefighter. Unfortunately, they are all in my head since (as you will soon discover) I have no writing talent.
When it happened, the baby was minus two weeks old.
She was born 4 weeks early so she was two weeks old that day.
Because of her early arrial, Lilly was tiny.
Lilly's mother Sandy didn’t realize that a mouth could come in such a small size. Just to get the bottle’s nipple into Lilly’s mouth required the poor little girl to stretch it open as far as she could, like she was letting out a big, long yawn.
Unfortunately, once Lilly latched on the bottle, her opened mouth plugged up up Lilly’s even tinier nostrils.
As a result, every feeding was noisy, stressful and a bit scary for Sandy. Since this was Sandy's first child she had no experience in feeding little ones, so she was never completely sure whether all of that gagging and gurgling was normal or was Lilly really having trouble breathing.
Since Sandy had chosen to bottle feed Lilly she had to buy baby formula. She liked the premixed formula because of the convenience of opening the can, filling the bottle, warming it up and popping it in Lilly's mouth.
That convenience was also expensive. So Sandy decided to start buying the powdered formula. It was cheaper but required the extra step of mixing it with water. To save herself a little extra time, she mixed a gallon of formula for future use.
Today was the first time Don and Jean, Sandy’s parents, had seen their granddaughter since she was born.
They had been at the hospital at Lilly’s birth, but since she was born prematurely, the second she was delivered, a team of medical people whisked her away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. They did eventually get a glimpse of little Lilly once. It was through a door, a window, and a glass topped crib. That hardly counted as “seeing” their precious little girl.
When they finally were able to see and hold her, they were amazed at how tiny she was. When she grabbed Grandpa’s finger, her little fingers barely went halfway around.
Don and Jean were careful not to upset the routine that Sandy was trying to establish with Lilly and part of that routine was feeding the little one upstairs. Because Sandy felt that the sounds Lilly made while eating would be scary to everyone, she always fed Lilly in the baby’s own bedroom
In reality, the only person scared by Lilly was Sandy.
Don and Jean figured, to their constant amusement, that their daughter must have forgotten that in addition to Sandy herself, mom and dad had raised 4 other children. It would take a lot more noise than a baby’s gurgle to upset these salty veterans of parenting.
But, on the drive in, they both promised to not offer any advice (no matter how obviously necessary it may be) unless specifically asked by Sandy or Joe. Don was skeptical that one of them in particular was going to be able to refrain from passing on some mothering techniques to her daughter.
Nick was obsessed with the Fire Station’s landscaping, specifically the grass and the shrubbery.
He felt that the appearance of the Station and its grounds was just as important to the reputation as was having clean fire trucks and spotless uniforms.
Since it was Sunday there was little to do around the Station so he was free to give in to his obsession and work all day on the yard.
He had fertilized about two weeks ago, so today he was doing surveillance on the front, side, and rear yards, trying to catch and eliminate any weeds that had evaded him thus far.
If someone happened to walk or drive by they would see a tall, skinny guy bent over and staring at the ground while he slowly zigzagged back and forth across the half acre yard. His partners joked that he looked like a confused old man looking for his glasses on the ground.
Because of the layout of the Station’s property and the closeness of surrounding houses and businesses, many of the neighbors near the Station had gotten used to seeing this strange behavior and paid little attention.
On the day it happened, Nick had completed his weed patrol on the side yard and moved on to the back yard, which was a strip of grass between the end of the parking lot and the retention pond.
This yard was about 20 feet wide and ran from the north corner of the rear parking lot, across the back of the parking lot, to the access road at the south corner of the lot. He started at the north corner and slowly walked toward the access road gate, bent over with his head down as he walked.
He always tried to get the other three guys on duty to come out and help him. They almost never did and the times they did come out, it was usually just to harass him about his ‘pretty flowers and grass’. Although their harassment amused him, it became easier to do the work himself.
Right before it happened, Grandpa was holding Lilly. The grown man literally pouting that Sandy wanted to take the baby away from him in order to go upstairs to feed her. He argued that Lilly (and Grandpa) were very comfortable situated in the couch and he could just feed her here.
After a stern stare from his wife Jean. he reluctantly handed the precious bundle to Sandy and she disappeared upstairs, closing the bedroom door to make sure no one got scared.
Because Grandpa’s belly was indeed comfy, Lilly had fallen asleep. By the time she and Sandy reached the bedroom, Lilly was wide awake and unhappy about it.
Occasionally Nick had to stand straight up to relieve the stress on his back.
As he stood up, he casually noted that the access road was full of kids. The yards were also busy with moms and dads doing chores or yard work.
Nick always thought that living on that little access road was the perfect place to raise children. No traffic and a Fire Station nearby in case of emergency.
For the remainder of his weed patrol, Nick would do the same thing; bend over while looking for weeds, stand back up to stretch, then bend back over and so on.
After a couple of minutes, Sandy finally quieted Lilly her down and got her to start sucking from the bottle.
Since this was the very first bottle full of the new formula, Sandy was looking for any sign that Lilly was unhappy or uncomfortable with the new recipe.
Don was sitting on the couch, waiting for Sandy to return the precious cargo back to the comfort of his big, soft belly. It didn’t take him long to fall asleep and start snoring away.
Jean was sitting on the rocking chair out on the front porch. She was relaxing and watching all of the neighborhood kids and families playing, gardening, and just enjoying the warm spring day.
She softly laughed as she heard Don’s familiar snore coming from inside.
Luckily, Lilly didn't seem to be bothered by the new formula.
As usual, while she ate she was making enough noise for 3 babies.
Sandy rested her own head back against the rocker's cushion, closed her eyes, and lightly dozed from the sound of Lilly’s gurgling and the gentle motion of the rocking chair.
As Sandy drowsed, she became aware that the sounds of Lilly eating has stopped. When Sandy opened her eyes, she saw that Lilly had spit the nipple out of her tiny mouth and had also fallen asleep.
To keep her from waking up, Sandy carefully put Sandy over her shoulder, gently patting her back to get all the burps out. Sandy lightly dozed off again.
As she slowly rocked, patted, and dozed, Sandy started to realize that Lilly wasn’t burping. She wasn’t making any noises.
She pulled Lilly off of her shoulder so she could look at the baby’s face.
Sandy's scream had Don up and running for the stairs before he was evenawake enough to know where he was . The only thought in his mind was that something horrible had happened to little baby Lilly.
Jean also heard the scream. But not only did she not race inside of the house, she didn’t move. She couldn’t move. She was literally paralyzed by overwhelming fear as she sat in the porch chair on that warm spring day. She continued to sit there, incapacitated by the certainty that the baby was dead.
Nick has worked his way about halfway across the lawn . As he again stood up to stretch, he noticed that all of the kids that had been playing in the street, as well as some of the adults, had stopped moving. One moment there was a buzz of activity up and down the street, the next, nobody is moving a muscle. It’s as if someone yelled, “Freeze!”
As she took the baby off of her shoulder, she could already tell Lilly was completely limp. Her eyes were half open and her lips were blue.
Sandy screamed louder than she thought possible as a million thoughts entered her head all at once.
Luckily some part of her brain went on autopilot and sprang to life.
She flung open the bedroom door, raced down the stairs, and sprinted straight out of the house.
Her father was running up the stairs as Sandy was running down. As she approached him she yelled, “Oh God, call 9-1-1. She’s not breathing, she’s not moving! Oh god, no! Call 9-1-1. My baby is dying, my baby is dead!”
Don reached out to grab her arn as she went by in an attempt to calm her down and find out what happened. Sandy didn’t even miss a step as she jerked her arm away, almost pulling her Dad back down the stairs behind her. She never looked back as she ran out the front door past her motionless mother on the rocker.
Nick has also stopped as he watched the strange sight on the access road.
Now the crowd on the street began to split down the middle, starting from the far end. It also seemed to start to rumble like they were all talking at once. The reason for the splitting of the mass of people now became clear.
There was a a single person running up the road, towards him. As the person ran, the crowd would part, then fill back in behind and begin running as well.
As the runner, which Nick could now see was a young girl, passed a house, the people from that house or yard joinied the crowd and followed them as them came towards me.
It was obvious to Nick that this growing crowd was coming to the Fire Station. The only reason they would be coming here was because someone was sick or injured.
Simultaneous to that thought came the realization that the running girl was carrying a dead or dying tiny baby.
Following the girl and the baby was an entire neighborhood of moaning, crying, and sobbing men, women, and children, all running in a complete panic towards the Fire Station.
As soon as Nick realized what he was faced with, he immediately started sprinting towards the baby.
Sandy was running as fast as she could. She was completely overwhelmed and had no idea that she was being followed by her entire neighborhood, all of them as distressed as her. She also did not notice the effect her running was having on her baby and it's head continued to bounced around as if on a string.
All she knew and all she was focused on was the tall man in uniform behind the Fire Station. She could see that he was also running, coming straight towards her.
Nick could see that he was probably going to meet the whole mob at the gate that blocked the access road.
With a growing feeling of dread he was absolutely certain that the panicked young girl was going to throw her baby to him over the gate. She was still 15 feet away. At least.
“NO! Don’t let go of him, don’t do that!”
Sandy was losing touch with reality. She thought that she was never going to reach the Paramedic The only way to save her baby was by getting it to the Paramedic.
She threw Lilly as hard as she could.