TALES FROM THE DONUT SHOP BY JULES A. STAATS
Copyright 2014, Jules A. Staats; Library of Congress, USA. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. This work may be previewed only.
Lost with a dying baby!
A wise person said that a person should disregard his first thought and use his second thought when making a decision.
It was a very hot day in the northern part of Irwindale, California. This is a city located north of the Interstate 10 Freeway, East of Los Angeles. This is an area with many rock quarry pits northwest of the center of the small city. For many years, materials to make concrete have been carved from the earth, and over the years, many of the rock quarry pits have added small lakes to the pits due to seeping ground water. In this old rock mining area there were at the time, no trees, no green fields, and—on the surface--no water. Years ago, this was a no man's land between the racetrack of Arcadia and the many homes South in West Covina.
The almost complete lack of foliage always made the area feel drier and hotter. Today, with an official high air temperature of 112 degrees, this area felt like an oven. Remember that in California, as in all areas, the air temperature is always checked several feet off the ground. At ground level, where people live, the air temperature can usually run up to ten degrees hotter than the published temperature.
This was the long hot and deadly summer of 1965. Besides being hot the technology of the automobile air conditioner had not yet found a path to the police radio car. The joke about the 460 air conditioner, "Go 60 miles per hour with four windows open", had its basis in fact during these bygone days. Police cars were hot boxes of torture, in 1965.
Add to this, the nature of the uniforms at the time. The Department required a uniform shirt was made of 100% wool and sun tan color. The pants were forest green and heavy 100% wool material. It is common knowledge that wool tends to make skin itch in cool weather. Wool seems to actually bite the skin in hot weather. Finally, there was no such thing as a short sleeve police uniform shirt, yet. Although it may seem incredible to the reader today, that was the way it was. Cops worked in a portable sauna when the weather was hot. However, the future would not spare police officers evermore continuing discomfort when cooler short sleeve shirts would be worn over a smothering vest of mandatory body armor.
To make the situation worse in 1965, current Department policy dictated that a patrol deputy wear a fiberglass helmet while driving and talking to the public. Those that promulgated the policy never ever wore this terribly uncomfortable helmet and uniform but the decisions by the brass were made and enforced. This helmet policy made the torture of the overheated deputy absolutely complete.
Jay had worked way too many hours that week. It was not his fault though, with the 1965 Los Angeles--Watts Riot in full swing, all of the Deputy Sheriffs in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department had been pressed into twelve hours shifts. With 12 hours on, and 12 hours off–plus travel time to and from work, donning the complete uniform and taking it off as well--there was not much time left for sleep. Forget having any home life during the course of this civil unrest in the center of L.A.
These were the days that seemed much like war. There actually was a war of sorts, raging in the south area of the City of Los Angeles. Some people felt that they were protesting against the establishment. Others were taking advantage of the anarchy. Some people were burning property. Others were looting. A few were trying to kill cops and firemen. The result was as expected, and the establishment of society was protecting itself. During the operations to quell the massive disturbances there was chaos and unfortunately unnecessary loss of life.
He did not care one bit about the riot in Watts. He had enough work and discomfort to keep him from thinking about other cop's troubles. He had put in almost thirteen hours today. He had just responded to an attempt burglary in progress, a priority call. The suspect was long gone upon arrival, nothing was damaged or stolen and the victim could not provide workable information on the suspect. This last minute burglary report ensured his shift would exceed the thirteen hours before he even headed back to the station. Also, the unusual high temperatures made these extra hours nearly intolerable.
The blistering cruel sun had baked his brain inside his fiberglass helmet all day. Jay glanced at his uniform shirt, muttering words of self-disgust. He saw that his armpits were marked with a fine, almost circular line of white salt, where the constant wetness had persisted just next to the dry areas. He may have grown accustomed to the strange feeling of sweat sneaking down the center of his back, but the obvious and visible salt lines on his formerly spotless uniform shirt made him feel that he should hide from public view.
As he drove west on Huntington Drive, turning south on Highland Avenue the sheriff’s deputy was more than ready to go home. He had not been authorized to leave his patrol district but he was getting close to the south boundary hoping that the 10-19 would be issued to his unit. At that moment he was actually feeling emotions of desperation. He was straining against the urge to just quit, just walk off the job due to his mounting feelings of discomfort which was bordering pain.
Just when it seemed that this day shift of torture would last forever, an eternity, he finally heard the radio issue a welcome message. His unit was being called. At last, the order had come to 10-19, come back to the station for end of shift.
The weary Deputy Sheriff continued to drive his patrol car south on Highland Avenue. Jay decided to go through the City of Irwindale, as it was the fastest route to the Sheriff's Station in Temple City.
A short time later, he had driven away from the greener and relatively more comfortable area of the City of Duarte. As he continued southbound in the black and white patrol car, the familiar transition to the bleak rock quarry area came into the view. He felt the change; the air was noticeably hotter here.
That's alright, he thought, only eight miles, and he would be back at the station. Then the trip home and something cool to drink. A cool shower or a cold beer sounded good, too. Jay spoke out, talking to himself with a grin, 'How about both at the same time?' He drove almost absentmindedly, while he thought of much more pleasant things.
No one could blame this deputy sheriff for being wrapped in thoughts of going home. He had put in his time for today, and then some. He had served his community to the fullest and he himself was satisfied with the accomplishments made on this long day shift.
But a cop's day never ends when the required shift hours pass. In this case over 13 hours had gone by. The day was still hot and the yellow, sun burned through the smog, incinerating the interior of the squad car. Even though it was seven o'clock, this day was far from over as one more report had to be reviewed and perhaps corrected by the Watch Sergeant.
As Jay was reaching the south end of the street called Bueno Rio, he saw a car going the opposite way. A thought passed through his mind, that he had not seen any cars going the opposite way for over a mile. Most people had more sense than to be out driving in this heat where very few cars had air conditioning at this place in time. He observed that the driver and apparently sole occupant was a thirty year old white female with short brown hair. She appeared distressed. She had her left hand extended from the driver window and was waiving at him.
Of course, it was obvious that she was lost. As the deputy passed this car, he saw the look in the eyes of this woman. It was the eyes of a person who had just lost all hope. He knew that she was attempting to stop the police car, to gain information of some sort. That was true, but Jay was going off duty. Maybe someone else could help her later.
He continued toward the station. He only traveled less than 200 feet past the other car when he almost felt that someone was shouting at him to stop and turn around.
Sure, he was tired, sweaty, and even mentally burned out. He knew he smelled of sweat. Even so, there was something very wrong about leaving this person without helping her. A strange feeling of coldness struck his neck, traveling down his back. In an instant, his elbows were tingling. Something was dreadfully wrong! Something was going on that he could not see but he felt now a sense of urgency. He quickly decided to go back.
Jay made a sharp "U" turn, and caught up with the vehicle. The driver had pulled over to the side of the road, and had stopped. Jay saw that the forehead of the woman was down, against the steering wheel, as in a gesture of futility.
Jay got out of the patrol car, feeling the tightness of the salt in the armpits of his shirt along with a distinct smell from his hot fiberglass helmet. The shirt felt as if it had been starched. He shuddered about how he must look and smell by now.
Jay walked up to the female driver. She apparently was unaware that he had stopped for her, and was sobbing. Her head was tightly pressed against the steering wheel. Jay felt the perspiration roll off his helmet liner and drip on the front of his shirt. However as he drew closer to the driver’s window Jay could see she apparently had a big problem. This could turn into another crime report or an involved domestic mess. He dreaded having to spend too much time with her. His mind had not released the alternate and pleasant thoughts of finally going home. He was not prepared for what he saw in that car. The woman had an unconscious three month old baby in her lap.
Heart and soul, the deputy sheriff was fully back on duty as his own feelings and comfort were completely forgotten as he started to handle a life or death emergency. He needed some information to do anything, asking what was wrong with the baby.
The woman attempted to see Jay through eyes flooded with tears. "Help me," she pleaded, "My son got a shot an hour ago. He got sick. I started to go back to the doctor's office, but I got lost." Her voice cracked, as she added, "Help me please, David is dying!"
Jay reached into the open window and pulled the six month old child into his arms. The little guy was dry and hot, showing that he had fever, and he was having small convulsions. His color was blue and his breathing was shallow, showing that there was not much time left. The baby's little cloudy blue eyes were darting about, as his little body barely shook. Jay felt that he could see the life evaporating from the tiny body.
Unfortunately, as a reminder that back in 1965, there was no such thing as C.P.R. or Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation in those days. Jay had been trained in mouth to mouth breathing, though. That was the state of the art of the times. He gently breathed a couple dozen gentle breaths against the resisting lungs of the shaking child. It was working. The color of his little face became slightly more reddish, less than the previous blue death mask.
There was an emergency hospital in Duarte, only two miles away. The nearest ambulance was based eight miles away. Jay decided he had one option and that was to transport the child to the hospital.
He slipped the baby under his right arm making sure he supported the infant’s head with his hand as he did with his own four month old daughter, and grabbed the door handle of the mother's car with his left hand. "Let's go, mom." Jay ordered. "We're going to the hospital in my car."
For some reason, either the mouth to mouth breathing or handling of the child had stopped the convulsions for the moment. The deputy got the mother into the passenger seat of the patrol car, put the baby in her arms and sprinted around the police car for the driver’s seat.
Jay called in the emergency, advising Sheriff's Radio Center that he was rolling code 3 to the hospital in Duarte. At the same time he floored the gas pedal and flipped up the siren and red light switches. The car roared forward, and then hesitated, the engine almost completely stalling. The car was vapor locked due to the heat of the day, and gas was not getting to the carburetor. He backed off the gas, and found that he could get the car to accelerate if he gave it less than half throttle.
The car would not go over fifty miles per hour. The anxious mother was unaware of the mechanical problem. All she knew was that he was not going as fast as she wanted him to go. She started to scream at him, "Go faster!" "Go faster!" over and over again.
He knew could not change things, so he mentally tuned her out. He glanced at the child. He was still somewhat stable and breathing almost normally. Emotionally, Jay was settling down, since he knew that he now was only a block away from the hospital emergency. He stopped at the red light at the intersection and held down the horn ring causing the mechanical siren to scream loudly. Traffic yielded and he turned into the hospital parking lit. He had radioed ahead information about the child. The emergency room personnel were outside the doors and standing by.
As he pulled up to the double doors of the Emergency Room, the Doctor and two nurses met him at the radio car. They quickly moved the infant inside the hospital. The rest was up to the professional staff and the hospital facilities.
Yes, the hospital staff won, that day. The baby not only lived, but he recovered completely.
The sobering fact remains though, that this little boy would have died, if not quickly treated. Had the deputy continued to the station and ignored the request for help, there was little chance that the mother would have ever found medical help for her child.
Jay remembers to this day, that an intangible thing, a voice, a feeling, something, made him override his personal discomfort and his selfish thoughts that day, then go back to what seemed to be only a person asking directions. This was still another crisis that he was present at the exact time and place. Could this be only a fantastic coincidence or was he guided? He was to get his answer later on.
Many successful cops pay attention to these so called, gut feelings, and then incorporate them into their trained responses. Many lives have been saved because a cop "had a feeling about the situation."
This ends a true story of one of many babies saved by this deputy during an almost ancient procedure called “Grab and Run”. It was to be a fact of this deputy’s career that if he arrived at the side of a living baby or child to be rescued, they did not die.