May 02, 2018

IAEP Paramedic Rescue of Infant Leads to Baby Safe Haven Law

The story of IAEP Local 95 paramedic and former long-time Executive Board Member Rod Witkos, who's rescue of an abandoned newborn 18 years ago led to the enactment of a Baby Safe Haven law, is featured in the article below. The article was written by Kim Ring and originally posted on telegram.com on May 1, 2018. Click here to see the original post. 
 
WORCESTER - Life Flight paramedic Rodney Witkos has two children, both about to present him and his wife with grandchildren in the next few months.

But on Tuesday he was thinking of another baby - one he held only briefly and one who, on May Day this year, turned 18, perhaps without ever knowing about him, his partner or the woman who likely saved the child’s life.

And she might not know about the Massachusetts law passed because of her and how that law has saved the lives of infants who might also have ended up abandoned and alone in parking lots when their mothers didn’t know what else to do.

“It’s just one of those calls you think about,” Mr. Witkos, 54, said of Baby May, as she was called. “Some cases, you follow up. A heart attack and it gets fixed with a procedure, or a call that’s not going well and it ends in the ER. But this one ... we brought her to the hospital and that was the last time I saw her.”

On May 1, 2000, Mr. Witkos, then working for Worcester EMS, based at City Hospital, and his partner went to a parking lot on Vernon Hill, near where St. Vincent Hospital was at the time. A St. Vincent employee had found a bag near her car. Inside was a crying newborn; the woman had called for help.

Mr. Witkos recalled his memories of the event in a blog post he wrote Tuesday.

“She was cold, wet, bloody and alone. How desperate do you have to be to do this? We took her immediately to our truck and started to dry her,” he wrote. “She had a good cry and good tone. Ten fingers, ten toes. We turned up the heat.”

The plastic grocery bag the child was in may have seemed crude, but now, wrapping infants in plastic has become part of the neonatal resuscitation protocol so they stay warm, he wrote. It helped keep her alive.

Mr. Witkos clamped the baby’s umbilical cord and wrapped her in a blanket. She didn’t require much more.

“The ride across town couldn’t have taken more than three or four minutes but it felt like an eternity,” he wrote. “En route, we wrapped her up in a dry bath blanket and delivered her in stable condition to the ER at Memorial.”

Almost immediately, legislators began hammering out what would become the Baby Safe Haven Law that would allow for infants less than a week old to be left at designated spots including hospitals, police stations or staffed fire houses, without fear of prosecution. The law passed in 2004.

“Something good came out of it. It’s saved lives,” Mr. Witkos said.

Michael Morrisey, co-founder of Baby Safe Haven New England, based in Marlboro, said Mr. Witkos is correct: The law has helped save lives.

From 1997 to 2004, before the law was in place, 20 babies including Baby May were abandoned, and 10 of them were found dead or died, he said.

Since then there have been many years when the number of babies abandoned away from designated areas has been zero.
About 30 to 40 percent of the time, a parent comes back for the child sometime later, he said.

When a baby is left at a designated Baby Safe Haven site, it is taken to the hospital and the state Department of Children and Families seeks custody through the courts. The child is placed with a family, often one interested in adopting, and the adoption process can begin, Mr. Morrisey said. His group also connects expectant mothers with the resources to help them avoid abandoning their baby.

Mr. Morrisey said if Baby May, now an adult under the law, wants to come forward, her privacy would be respected to the extent she wishes. He said he would love to talk with her and see if she knows about the impact her birth has had.

He said the woman who found her would love to see her again, and Mr. Witkos , the paramedic, would like that, too. He acknowledges that she may live far away, could be a mother now herself, or might not even be alive.

“I’d like to know if she stayed in the area and how she did in life,” Mr. Witkos said. “It’s not just the bad ones you remember, it’s the good ones, too, and despite the horrible circumstances, I’d chalk this up as a good one.”

He finished his post with a photograph of Baby May taken about seven months after she was found and with a wish - “Happy Birthday Baby May, wherever you are.”

If you are Baby May and would like to reach out to the people who helped you 18 years ago, you can email babysafehaven@gmail.com


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