'Baby not breathing' call still haunts me 13 years later

I saw your parents in the waiting room and knew they were about to get the worst news of their lives


By Anonymous Paramedic, 21 years in EMS

We were tired from being 23.5 hours into a somewhat busy shift in town.

"Baby not breathing" can mean so many things and I hoped it was just another first-time mom overreacting and you would be fine.

The roads were slippery from the falling snow but we got there quickly. The police officer ran out of the house looking like a running back protecting the football and handed me your tiny little body.

He said you just had a bottle and your dad was burping you when you stopped breathing. He started doing CPR but might have been too aggressive. He was scared. I was too.

You were a one-week-old preemie and weighed 4.5 pounds. You were not breathing and had a pulse of 40.

I laid you on the stretcher and it might as well have been a football field. You almost disappeared. I put you on the monitor but even with the pedi pads, they almost touched. Your head was the size of a tangerine and I used two fingers to hold the laryngoscope .

I was not a spiritual man but I said the most earnest prayer I have ever uttered. “You can let me miss the next 10 tubes on adults but please let me get this one.” It worked and the tube was in.

I used two fingers to do compressions on your chest that was so small. So very, very small. I placed a IO and gave you fluids and meds. It didn’t help.

My partner just sat, rocking on the bench seat repeating “Oh my God! Oh my God!” while the police officer drove so fast down the snowy roads that I was sure we wouldn’t make it.

I was thankful to have decided to renew my PALS a month earlier but still felt useless.

We got to the ER and rushed you inside. The doctor listened to your breath sounds and said “The tube is good” and a wave of nausea/relief washed over me.

Twenty minutes later a nurse came out to tell me you had passed away. I cried and felt hollow.

I saw your parents in the waiting room and knew they were about to get the worst news of their lives.

Your parents will never forget that day. Neither will I.

It was 13 years ago and I still remember your name. Your address. The color of your hair. The color of your eyes.
Every day. Some nights, too.

Maybe I didn’t do enough. Maybe I did.

If there is a hell, I will go there and hear your voice asking why I didn’t save you. I don’t fear death. I die a little every time I think of you and there isn’t a whole lot of life left to lose.

About the author

The Code Green Campaign calls a 'code alert' on the mental health of EMTs and paramedics by breaking the silence about mental illness in EMS by sharing the stories of those who have been there. The Code Green Campaign has selected this story and we are glad to share it with EMS1 readers. Learn more about the Code Green Campaign.

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