Sometimes, the best way to handle a situation is to rely on instinct.
On Wednesday, July 13 at the Hudson County government offices at 257 Cornelison Ave., Estefania Gonzalez Vargas handed Hudson County sheriff’s officers her 1-year-old baby, who had just stopped breathing.
It was not the first time that Gonzalez’ son, Bruno, had trouble breathing due to excessive crying. However, in the past, the breathing had returned.
Relying on instinct
Two officers, Lt. Anthony DeGennaro of Secaucus and Det. Billy Garcia, who hails from North Bergen, were on security detail in the building.
“[Gonzalez] Started tapping me on the shoulder,” said DeGennaro. “I turned around and she started handing me a baby. It wasn’t breathing; it was turning purple.”
DeGennaro then asked Garcia to get an ambulance. However, he knew that it was in his best interest to try to solve the problem immediately.
“When she handed me the baby, the whole face – the mouth [and] nose area – started turning blue, and clearly something was not right,” said DeGennaro.
“We were very lucky that day.” – Lt. Anthony DeGennaro
“I tried tapping [the baby] on the back, trying to see if [the baby] was choking – trying to get whatever it was out,” said DeGennaro, “All the sudden the baby coughed a few times.”
“I heard the baby cough and then start crying, and then basically the color returned to [the baby’s] face,” said DeGennaro, adding that the crying was a good sign.
Although crying won't directly stop a baby’s breathing, there are other reasons that babies can stop breathing.
One of these reasons is a Breath Holding Spell. In this case, the baby will hold its breath until it turns blue and loses consciousness. Infants hold their breath in order to receive attention, express emotion, or, in rare cases, to indicate an underlying medical problem. It is impossible, however, for a baby to harm itself by holding its breath, according to an ABC news story.
The spell occurs in 5 percent of infants up to age 5, according to the story.
A separate reason, as doctors reportedly say happened in Bruno’s case, is that phlegm can be caught in the baby’s throat due to excess crying.
Luckily, DeGennaro was able to break it up before it became a problem.
“When I started patting [the baby] on the back it loosened it [the phlegm],” said Lt. DeGennaro. “Then I started patting [the baby] some more and it must have released it.”
After the incident, EMS showed up and baby Bruno and his mother went down to Jersey City Medical Center, where doctors determined that Bruno was fit to be released.
“I think it was two days later [that] we saw the baby at our headquarters,” said DeGennaro, who added that the baby was given a deputy pin.
“We had to be there at the right place, the right time,” said DeGennaro. “Everything worked out very well. We were very lucky that day.”
Stephen LaMarca may be reached at email@example.com.