Plain Dealer reporter
All the babies in the neonatal intensive care unit at MetroHealth Medical Center are hard-luck cases, born with problems, facing death. But one entered the world worse off than the others.
He weighs 7 pounds, 14 ounces and looks like a giant compared with the palm-size babies born prematurely. Unlike those with serious defects, he was born with good health.
“This was a perfect baby,” said Dr. John Moore, the unit’s division head, who has cared for thousands of babies over the last 20 years.
What makes this baby worse off than the others is that he is the only one in the unit whose birth was not greeted by a mother’s love.
By now everyone in Greater Cleveland knows about the baby found Monday at Tower City in a women’s restroom, wrapped in a coat, abandoned in the garbage.
What no one knows, though, is who the mother is. The baby, whom doctors and nurses named Jack, has improved to fair condition, and police on Tuesday were reviewing surveillance footage from Tower City.
That is where maintenance worker Rebecca Reyes found the infant while cleaning. Emergency Medical Service rushed to the rescue and alerted MetroHealth Medical Center.
Pages alerted nurses and doctors in the neonatal intensive care unit they had a code pink – a baby on the brink of death.
Doctors Deepak Kumar and Marina Perez-Fournier, nurses Connie Eggleston and Chris Gasparro and the rest of the team raced to the emergency room.
Jack’s skin looked blue and felt ice cold. Rather than the normal 98.6, his temperature was 80.6 degrees.
“It could be dangerous to warm him too fast,” Kumar said.
They hooked him up to an IV, dripping warm saltwater into his veins, and put him under a crib warmer.
His heart beat just half the normal 140 to 150 times per minute. His blood pressure was low, carrying too little oxygen to his brain, causing a seizure.
After an hour, Jack remained in critical condition with a breathing tube down his throat, but he was stable enough to be placed in an incubator and moved upstairs to the NICU.
“I’d like to say you get used to it,” Eggleston said.
But at the end of her shift, Eggleston drove home, feeling the injustice of a world that could be so cruel to such a perfect baby.
Her eyes filled with tears and she let herself cry.
The Cuyahoga County Department of Children and Family Services has taken temporary emergency custody of Jack. Employees will look for foster care when he recovers unless Jack’s family claims him, said Jim McCafferty, executive director.
Detectives from Cleveland police’s sex crimes unit are following leads.
One was a dry cleaning receipt, bearing the name E. Walsh, found in the pocket of the coat Jack was wrapped in.
Back in the NICU on Tuesday, Eggleston, the other nurses and doctors hovered over all of the babies on the floor, but they kept gravitating back to the boy without a mother.
“We’re all a little protective of him,” she said.
“I guarantee he’ll be held a lot. We’ll probably spoil him before he leaves.”
It could take days to see whether the temperature and lack of oxygen damaged his liver, heart and lungs. But there’s hope. Newborn babies have a tremendous ability to recover.