In her 22 years as a paramedic, Melanie Howe has saved a number of lives.
However, the Beverly resident’s most recent heroics are “a little sweeter.”
Howe, a Chicago Fire Department (CFD) paramedic, helped resuscitate a newborn who was abandoned in a North Side neighborhood on May 7.
Joining other paramedics and firefighters in performing CPR, Howe watched as the baby, possibly just a few hours old, began to show signs of life, and he now appears to be well on his way to recovery.
According to the Chicago Police Department Office of News Affairs, the baby’s mother, father and grandmother have been charged in connection with the abandonment and for falsifying a police report.
Howe downplayed the notion that she’s a hero. She said she was just doing what she was trained to do.
“It’s my job,” Howe said. “It’s what I do. I’m grateful to be able to be a part of something kind of special, but truthfully, I’m thrilled that this guy seems like he’s doing great. I’m really excited. It’s gratifying, of course, but it’s just what I do.”
According to police, the baby’s mother, 16, gave birth, wrapped him in a towel and placed him on a garbage can in an alley on the 3500 block of North Pulaski Road.
The baby’s father, 17, then entered the alley, police said, and placed the baby and the towel in a plastic bag. He then called the baby’s grandmother, who took the baby to a firehouse on the 1700 block of North Pulaski Road and said she had found him on top of a garbage can in an alley on the 1700 block of North Keystone Avenue.
However, during an investigation, police said, the grandmother admitted her relation to the baby.
The baby’s parents were charged with first-degree attempted murder, police said; their names were not released because they are minors. The grandmother, identified as Karla Antimo, 37, was charged with a felony count of disorderly conduct for falsifying a police report.
Howe was returning from another call when she and the CFD personnel were alerted to respond to the firehouse.
Howe had no idea they would encounter a “brand-new baby.”
The infant had no pulse and was not breathing when CFD personnel began resuscitating him, and Howe said he was “freezing cold.”
Howe and her colleagues took turns working on him, and soon enough, he showed signs of life.
“You dive in and you start working,” said Howe, a CFD paramedic for 19 years. “The muscle memory takes over. You do what you do.”
While treating him, she said, she saw a slight sign that he was clinging to life.
While placing an IV in his foot, she said, she noticed the foot flex slightly. She didn’t know if it was because of responders working on his body, but then she saw an air bubble develop from his nose.
She was concerned that, because the infant’s umbilical cord hadn’t been clamped off, profuse bleeding could occur.
Howe said she believes the baby’s low body temperature worked in his favor because the constriction of his blood vessels minimized blood loss.
Responders used hot packs to raise his body temperature and transported him by ambulance to Norwegian American Hospital in Humboldt Park.
Once there, Howe said, the boy was “really moving his head around.” He also opened his eyes and began responding to voices.
“He warmed up enough,” Howe said, “that he was able to move again.”
At the hospital, she also saw him raise his arms over his head like a typical newborn.
The CFD posted on social media on May 8 that the baby had been upgraded to stable from very critical condition and was “crying and kicking.” He was transferred to Lurie Children’s Hospital.
Howe has cared for other babies, she said, whether they were abandoned or sick. But the circumstances surrounding this call shook her, and she said it was “the run you hope you never get.”
A mother of two, Howe described the situation as the “perfect storm of terrible.”
“It’s a whole other layer of emotional tricks that it plays on you,” she said.
Howe said it was the second time in as many days she helped revive a patient. The day before, a 30-year-old had stopped breathing, and after emergency personnel saved him and then said farewell, he was cracking jokes.
However, saving the newborn, who officials believe went without care for 10 hours, was especially emotional.
“It was like the worst moment of my career turning into the neatest little miracle in a couple hours time,” Howe said.
At a news conference on the day of the incident, CFD Paramedic Field Chief Patrick Fitzmaurice, who responded to the call with Howe, said her response was “amazing.”
Howe said luck was on their side.
“Everything lined up just right,” she said.
Everyone at the scene, she said, deserves credit. Each rotated to continue resuscitation efforts on the boy, and they also seamlessly coordinated to attend to other parts of his body.
The baby’s fate might have been different if they weren’t all there.
“We all had our hands in it,” Howe said.
Safe Haven law
In Illinois, anyone with a baby 30 days old or younger may drop the baby off to a hospital, police station, fire station or emergency medical services provider without being questioned.
The Social Services Administration then takes custody through Child Protective Services and places the child with an appointed caregiver.
For more information, visit the website at safehaven.tv.