Paramedic on newborn found on trash can: 'We were so lucky with this one'
Firefighters had to perform CPR and “keep ventilating” the baby to help him survive, paramedic Melanie Howe said
Rosemary Sobol, Alice Yin and Javonte Anderson
CHICAGO — The doctors and nurses had been working for more than half an hour, but it didn't look good for the newborn boy stuck with IVs and breathing tubes in the emergency room at Norwegian American Hospital.
He had been screaming when found in an alley on the Northwest Side minutes earlier Tuesday afternoon but now he couldn't breathe on his own, according to Larry Langford, a spokesman for the Chicago Fire Department. He had a pulse but only because of the machines hooked up to his tiny body.
As moments ticked away, a small crowd started gathering near his bed.
“All the people who were around in the ER were saying. 'Come on kid, come on kid, come on little boy.’ They were all pulling for him," Langford said. "They were all just rooting for this little kid."
Some made the sign of the cross and prayed.
“The whole room lined up on a semicircle watching the bed," said paramedic field chief Pat Fitzmaurice, who was with the baby from the firehouse to the hospital. "Like they were watching a boxing match. You kept hearing, 'Come on kid, fight back.' "
Some in the room cried when a doctor told a nurse, “I hate to say it but I don’t think there is a good ending.’’
But then suddenly someone announced, “Hey, hey, we got blood-oxygen level!”
The baby “pinked up" as his vital signs improved and he started breathing on his own. Lurie Children's Hospital sent a team to pick up the baby about three hours later and by Wednesday his condition was stabilized.
For now, he has been named Patrick Casey Doe: Patrick after Fitzmaurice and Casey after Kelly Casey, a police officer who cleared traffic for the ambulance to the hospital.
Chicago police on Wednesday night were talking to a 16-year-old girl who says she’s the boy’s mother.
Detectives were working to verify the teen’s claim, said police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi. The detectives were talking to her at Area North police headquarters.
Since the newborn was discovered Tuesday, the family of missing teen Marlen Ochoa-Uriostegui, who was pregnant when she disappeared in April, has asked police to conduct DNA tests to determine if the boy is hers. Her family said she was nine months pregnant when she went missing.
"If that baby is hers, it's a sign she's alive and is somewhere around here," said Raquel Uriostegui, the mother of Ochoa-Uriostegui, who disappeared after leaving her Little Village high school on April 23. Her family said she was nine months pregnant when she went missing.
Chicago police said they were working with the family and state child welfare officials on DNA testing. The baby will be placed in a foster home while custody is worked out.
But Wednesday night, Guglielmi said Ochoa-Uriostegui is not the same teen talking to detectives about the newborn.
Further information on how police learned about the 16-year-old was not immediately available.
The odds were against the baby boy from the beginning.
Just hours after being born, the boy was left on top of a trash can in an alley in the Hermosa neighborhood around 4:15 p.m. Tucked into a canvas shopping bag, his naked body was covered by a towel and the umbilical cord was still attached.
He was screaming enough that a mother and daughter found him and walked to a firehouse around the corner at 1747 N. Pulaski Road. “The fireman on watch was trying to figure out what they were talking about and they handed him a shopping bag," Langford said. "He looked inside and was shocked to find a baby."
By this time, the baby was not moving.
The firefighter immediately alerted the rest of his crew and an ambulance was called. “They all started working on the child,’’ Langford said.
When the ambulance arrived, "the baby was cold as concrete," Fitzmaurice said. "I wasn't too optimistic, but like I said to the lieutenant, I wasn't ready to lose this one today, and neither were they and they worked very hard."
While still at the firehouse, the crew started warming the baby. "Immediately they tied off the umbilical cord . . . The baby had lost some blood. They clamped (the cord) off right away," Fitzmaurice said. As the ambulance took the baby away, firefighters kept telling him, “Don’t quit. Keep fighting kid."
At the hospital, doctors and nurses "had like three or four minutes maybe to get ready for a pediatric cardiac arrest and they got a neonatologist (Dr. Nida Blankas-Hernaez) in there. … Everyone in the ER was laser focused. It was amazing.
"She was transfixed," he said of the neonatologist. "Her face never cracked. She wouldn't even smile."
Fitzmaurice said he took a peek after the baby was placed in an incubator. He was about 7 pounds and had reddish hair. "His eyes were open and he was moving around. He was still fighting,’’ he said. “At one point his hands were above his head, by his ears and I said to the nurse, ‘He just said, I ain’t done man.’ "
He talked about naming him Rocky, but decided “it was too corny.’’ Maybe another fighter, like Jake LaMotta.
Fitzmaurice noticed the neonatologist had finally relaxed. “That was the first time she breathed," he said. "Her eyes were red."
The woman brought the baby to a nearby fire station at 1747 N. Pulaski Road, and he was taken from there to Norwegian American Hospital, Hudson said. The baby’s condition was later stabilized, and he was transferred to Lurie Children’s Hospital on Wednesday morning, a police spokeswoman said. Area North detectives were investigating.
Police were working with the family of Marlen Ochoa-Uriostegui, 19, who disappeared after leaving her Little Village high school on April 23, on possible DNA testing of the child, according to Kellie Bartoli, a police spokeswoman. The family had asked that police test the boy to see if he is related to Ochoa-Uriostegui, who was pregnant when she disappeared, according to police. Separately, in relation to Ochoa-Uriostegui’s missing person case, police were investigating whether a vehicle matching the description of her car that was found about 1:30 a.m. in the 7700 block of South Keeler Avenue was Ochoa-Uriostegui’s, Bartoli said.
When the child was found, firefighters had to perform CPR and “keep ventilating” the baby to help him survive, paramedic Melanie Howe said at a news conference Tuesday evening, according to WGN-Ch. 9 video.
“We were so lucky with this one,” she said. “We’re so lucky that this little guy has improved so much.”
Paramedic field chief Patrick Fitzmaurice pleaded with parents to take advantage of the Illinois safe haven law — legislation enacted in 2001 that allows parents to drop off unharmed babies younger than 30 days old at designated hospitals, police stations and firehouses with no questions asked.
“I don’t know what it’s like to have a child, be pregnant and be in some horrible circumstances where you are driven to do something like this. It almost sounds diabolical,” an emotional Fitzmaurice said at the news conference.
“But come to us, man. If she would’ve called 911 we would’ve taken the baby to one hospital and her to another hospital. We won’t judge. Don’t leave your baby in an alley. Come to a firehouse. Leave the baby there. Give the kid a chance.”
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