She saved a baby abandoned on a trash can. Now, she’s facing charges.

airports, breastfeeding, nursing, lactation, baby

A panicked teenage mother and her boyfriend abandoned their baby boy in a Chicago alley, wrapped in a towel, stuffed into a bag, and left crying on top of a trash can. A woman took the baby to a fire station, which paramedics said saved the baby’s life — yet that good deed quickly turned bad when authorities realized she was the child’s grandmother. Now she’s being charged with disorderly conduct for lying about how she found him, despite the state’s Safe Haven laws.

When the unnamed woman brought the baby to the fire station on Chicago’s Northwest Side, the baby was barely clinging to life. “It’s a good thing they made the right decision and brought the baby to the firehouse,” paramedic fire chief Patrick Fitzmaurice told the Chicago Tribune. “It was rush hour. They wouldn’t have made it to the hospital in time.” The baby was in critical condition; firefighters immediately sprang into action, administering CPR, calling police to clear traffic on the way to the hospital, and making sure doctors were ready for their arrival. “The umbilical cord was white,” Fitzmaurice recalled. “There was no blood in it and that’s bad. The first fireman didn’t find a pulse. The boy was as cold as a stone. So, we started working the baby and let the hospital know we’re coming in with infant cardiac arrest. When we got there, well, that’s when you ask for help. And that kid was like Jake LaMotta. He just kept fighting.”

The newborn boy was taken to the emergency room at Norwegian American Hospital, where Dr. Nida Blankas-Hernaez led a team that worked valiantly to save the little boy’s life. Blankas-Hernaez worked with neonatal specialists, respiratory therapists, labor and delivery nurses, and more — and while they fought to save the baby, police officers and firefighters surrounded them, urging the baby not to give up. “All the people who were around in the ER were saying. ‘Come on kid, come on kid, come on little boy.’ They were all pulling for him,” Larry Langford, a spokesman for the Chicago Fire Department, said to the Chicago Tribune. “They were all just rooting for this little kid.” Fitzmaurice added, “The whole room lined up on a semicircle watching the bed. Like they were watching a boxing match. You kept hearing, ‘Come on kid, fight back.'”

Some cried when it appeared the baby wouldn’t make it, but miraculously, he pulled through, and was named Patrick Casey Doe — after Fitzmaurice, and after Kelly Casey, the police officer who cleared traffic for them. “The baby was such a fighter. And these are tough people, too, they are fighters,” Blankas-Hernaez said. “And I told them, as soon as the baby moved, open-eyed, turning pink, I asked them, ‘Come and see, you did a good job guys.’ And they have tears you know. Tears.”

“[T]he other day, in the ER with the baby, I said ‘God, if you don’t save this one, I’m done. It’ll be my last day’,” Fitzmaurice said. “But he lived. Death wanted him, but this day God said ‘no.’ He just said no.”

READ: Mother saves her baby’s life through Florida Safe Haven law

This story seems like it would have a happy ending — but instead, the woman who helped saved the baby’s life is instead facing charges. The 16-year-old mother of the baby allegedly wrapped the baby in the towel, while the 17-year-old father placed him in a canvas bag and left — but then called his 37-year-old mother. Both parents are facing attempted murder charges, and the grandmother is being charged with disorderly conduct for not telling firefighters how she found the child.

That someone could be penalized for doing the right thing is particularly egregious considering Illinois’ Safe Haven laws, which states that the person surrendering the baby does not have to be a parent, nor do they have to tell first responders anything when relinquishing the baby. However, it is unknown if the child’s condition at the time of surrender changed the circumstance. The Illinois Safe Haven website states, “As long as the baby has not been abused, the person may [surrender the baby anonymously] without fear of arrest or prosecution.” (emphasis added)

Unfortunately, charging this grandmother could very well discourage other Chicagoans from following her example if they ever find themselves in this kind of position; it’s much harder to do the right thing and save a child if you could potentially face jail time for it.

The point of Safe Haven laws is to make it clear that no one ever has to resort to abandoning their babies again. But if people are still penalized for saving children clearly in danger, then what message does that send to desperate parents?

Editor’s Note: Find out about your state’s Safe Haven Laws here.

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