The story below was published at Medscape.com on April 19, 2023, and is republished here with permission from Medscape.
A Baby Stops Breathing at a Grocery Store ― An ICU Nurse Steps In
Binta Diallo, RN, BSN, CCRN,
as told to Sarah Yahr Tucker for MEDSCAPE
April 19, 2023
https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/990954 (requires unpaid registration)
Emergencies happen anywhere, anytime, and sometimes medical professionals find themselves in situations where they are the only ones who can help. Is There a Doctor in the House? is a Medscape series that tells these stories.
My son needed a physical for his football team, and we couldn’t get an appointment. So, we went to the urgent care next to the H Mart in Cary (I live in North Carolina). While I was waiting, I thought, let me go get a coffee or an iced tea at the H Mart. They have this French bakery in there.
I went in and ordered my drink, and I was waiting in line. I saw this woman pass me running with a baby. Another woman ― I found out later it was her sister ― was running after her, and she said, “Call 911!”
“I don’t have my phone,” I said. I left my phone with my son; he was using it.
The lady came running back holding the baby. She was hysterical, screaming, “My baby’s not breathing!”
I said, “Are you okay?” And she just handed me the baby. The baby was gray, and there was blood in her nose and mouth. The woman said, “She’s my baby. She’s 1 week old.”
I was trying to think very quickly. I didn’t see any bubbles in the blood around the baby’s nose or mouth to tell me if she was breathing. She was just limp. The mom was still screaming, but I couldn’t even hear her anymore. It was like I was having an out-of-body experience. All I could hear were my thoughts: I need to put this baby down to start CPR. Someone was calling 911. I should go in the front of the store to save time, so EMS doesn’t have to look for me when they come.
I started moving and trying to clean the blood from the baby’s face with her blanket. At the front of the store, I saw a display of rice bags. I put the baby on top of one of the bags. Okay, where do I check for a pulse on a baby? I took care of adults, never pediatric patients, never babies. She was so tiny. I put my hand on her chest and felt nothing. No heartbeat. She still wasn’t breathing.
People were around me, but I couldn’t see or hear anybody. All I was thinking was, What can I do for this patient right now? I started CPR with two fingers. Nothing was happening. It wasn’t that long, but it felt like forever for me. I couldn’t do mouth-to-mouth because there was so much blood on her face. I still don’t know what caused the bleeding.
It was COVID time, so I had my mask on. I was, like, You know what? Screw this. She’s a 1-week-old baby. Her lungs are tiny. Maybe I don’t have to do mouth-to-mouth. I can just blow in her mouth. I took off my mask and opened her mouth. I took a deep breath and blew a little bit of air in her mouth. I continued CPR for maybe 5 or 10 seconds.
And then she gasped! She opened her eyes, but they were rolled up. I was still doing CPR, and maybe 2 second after that, I could feel under my hand a very rapid heart rate. I took my hand away and lifted her up.
Just then the EMS got there. I gave them the baby and said, “I did CPR. I don’t know how long it lasted.” The EMS person looked at me, said, “Thank you for what you did. Now we need you to help us with mom.” I said, “Okay.”
I turned around, and the mom was still screaming and crying. I asked one of the ladies that worked there, “Can you get me water?” She brought it, and I gave some to the mom, and she started talking to EMS.
People were asking me, “What happened? What happened?” It’s funny, I guess the nurse in me didn’t want to give out information. And I didn’t want to ask for information. I was thinking about privacy. I said, “I don’t know,” and walked away.
The mom’s sister came and hugged me and said thank you. I was still in this out-of-body zone, and I just wanted to get the hell out of there. So, I left. I went to my car and when I got in it, I started shaking and sweating and crying.
I had been so calm in the moment, not thinking about if the baby was going to survive or not. I didn’t know how long she was without oxygen, if she would have some anoxic brain injury or stroke. I’m a mom, too. I would have been just as terrified as that mom. I just hoped there was a chance that she could take her baby home.
I went back to the urgent care, and my son was, like, “Are you okay?” I said, “You will not believe this. I just did CPR on a baby.” He said, “Oh. Okay.” I don’t think he even knew what that meant.
I’ve been an ICU nurse since 2008. I’ve been in very critical moments with patients, life or death situations. I help save people all the time at the hospital. Most of the time, you know what you’re getting. You can prepare. You have everything you need, and everyone knows what to do. You know what the worst will look like. You know the outcome.
But this was something else. You read about things like this. You hear about them. But you never think it’ll happen to you ― until it happens.
I couldn’t stop thinking about the baby. So, 2 days later, I posted on Next Door to see if somebody would read it and say, “Hey, the baby survived.” I was amazed at how many people responded, but no one knew the family.
The local news got hold of me and asked me to do story. I told them, “The only way I can do a story is if the baby survived. I’m not going to do a story about a dead baby, and the mom has to live through it again.”
The reporter called me later on that day and said she had talked to the police. They said the family was visiting from out of state. The baby went to the hospital and was discharged home 2 days later. I said, “Okay, then I can talk.”
When the news story came out, I started getting texts from people at work the same night. So many people were reaching out. Even people from out of state. But I never heard from the family. No one knew how to reach them.
Since I was very young, I wanted to work in a hospital, to help people. It really brings me joy, seeing somebody go home, knowing, yes, we did this. It’s a great feeling. I love this job. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
I just wish I had asked the mom’s name. Because I always think about that baby. I always wonder, what did she become? I hope somebody reads this who might know that little girl. It would be so nice to meet her one day.
Binta Diallo, RN, BSN, CCRN, is an ICU nurse and now works as nurse care coordinator at the University of North Carolina’s Children’s Neurology Clinic.
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