Kansas City rescue workers save baby thought to be dead

Tuesday, July 27, 2010 | 9:56 a.m. CDT

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City Police Officer Anna Occhipinto had just arrived at a medical call at a Northeast area home early Monday when a woman handed her a bloody towel.

"My daughter had a miscarriage," the woman said. "Here's the baby."

Weighing less than 3 pounds and encased in a thin membrane, the baby appeared to have been stillborn.

Then the towel moved.

A tiny foot pushed against Occhipinto's hand. Her eyes widened.

"We need to remove that sac so the baby can breathe!" exclaimed her partner, Officer Steven Downing, who summoned firefighters just arriving at the house.

Downing fumbled for his knife.

"No," a firefighter said. "I've got something sterile."

The firefighter retrieved a small pair of scissors and carefully cut the sac from around the baby's face. Fluid and blood oozed from the baby's nose as he struggled for air.

They rushed the baby outside to an arriving ambulance. As they put the baby on the gurney, Downing asked the rescue workers to quickly suction its nose and mouth.

"He's still alive," Downing said. "He's trying to breathe!"

The rescue workers suctioned the baby and clamped the umbilical cord. The boy inhaled and started crying and flailing.

"It was so good to hear," Downing recalled later Monday.

The baby's pale gray color evolved to a bright pink before the ambulance pulled away for the hospital just before 1 a.m.

A second ambulance took the mother to another hospital.

Later in the day, the baby's grandmother recalled being on an emotional roller coaster. She really believed the baby had died.

"He was purple and I couldn't see his face because he was still in the amniotic sac," said Anglea Johnson. "I didn't say anything to my daughter because I didn't want to upset her."

Her daughter's due date was Sept. 28, Johnson said, and they thought the pains the daughter began suffering late Sunday night were false labor contractions. But after an hour or so, the pain overcame her 20-year-old daughter, who collapsed on the bathroom floor. Johnson knew she couldn't get her daughter to the hospital in time. She dialed 911.

By the time officers arrived, so had the baby.

The baby, named Izeah, is "doing great," Johnson said. He doesn't need a breathing machine, just a warmer.

"He looks really healthy," she said.

Johnson and her daughter, Michelle Johnson, both visited the boy and held him Monday.

"It's a miracle," Anglea Johnson said.


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