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Firefighter restarts newborn’s heart at fire station

A mother rang the doorbell of the Orlando Fire Department with her lifeless and blue 26-day-old son in her arms

By Caitlin Doornbos
Orlando Sentinel

ORLANDO — A frantic mother rang the doorbell of the Orlando Fire Department’s Station One about 11:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Her 26-day-old son was cradled in her arms, lifeless and blue after he’d stopped breathing moments before, OFD Lt. Tim Capps said.

A firefighter took the baby from his mother, rushing him through the fire department’s largest station at 78 West Central Blvd., he said. He took the infant to the vehicle bay where ambulances held the medical equipment needed and placed him on the ground to begin CPR.

“It’s not the cleanest environment we can be in, but it’s the best we [could] do,” Capps said. “We’re emergency medicine.”

An alarm roused sleeping firefighters from their bunks. All 17 members at the downtown station rushed to help, sliding down the fire poles ready to pitch in, he said.

“There’s no preparing for that, and instinct just takes over,” Capps said. “There was really no one taking charge of that scene; everybody just knew what to do.”

Together, they cleared the baby’s airway and pumped on his little chest with two fingers, waiting for any sign of life, he said.

Then it happened. They felt a pulse.

With the infant’s heart beating again, they put him and his mother into an ambulance and took them to Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children.

By the time they reached the hospital, the child’s heart was beating strong. The Arnold Palmer team “complimented the crew on a job well done,” OFD spokeswoman Ashley Papagni said.

Capps said the lifesaving moment was “huge” for the firefighters’ morale.

“I can’t express how proud I am at the guys,” he said. “The guys saved this baby’s life.”

Hours later, the baby’s nightgown — dotted with scenes from Noah’s Ark — was still strewn on a chair near the ambulances.

Firefighters were buzzing about the save well after the morning’s shift change sent the rescuers home for the day.

“It was a good morning,” Capps said. “Typically, whether you’re an infant or adult, if your heart stops, it’s typically not a good outcome.”

While resuscitating patients is a daily routine for firefighters, he said this time was different.

“This was literally thrown at them with no warning, and they performed flawlessly,” Capps wrote in an email to his supervisor. “Today, I was reminded why we are here, why we do what we do and why we have to be good at it.”

It’s unclear what caused the baby to stop breathing. An update on the boy was not available.

The names of the mother and child were not released.

Papagni said she plans to wash the nightgown and give it back to the mother if they ever meet for a reunion.

Copyright 2017 Orlando Sentinel