Every parent of a newborn fears their baby could stop breathing, but that fear became a reality for Alicia and A.J. Conway, of Moberly, the parents of a three-week old, premature infant, Abel.
While Alicia Conway was bathing her other child Aug. 30, she walked back into her room to get a towel when she noticed her son turning purple and not breathing.
“My first thought was, ‘Today is going to be the last day I hold him,’” she said. “When I picked him up, he let a cry out. I thought, ‘Please don’t let this be the last cry. Don’t let this be the last one.’”
Alicia was afraid her world would end, she said. Fortunately, this story has a happy ending. Due to the action of three Moberly police officers, Abel was able to breathe again. The officers, Sgt. Bobby Calvert, Tim Maag and Andrea Paige all received commendations Monday at the Moberly City Council meeting for their involvement in saving Abel’s life. Calvert was awarded the life-saving commendation, while Maag and Paige officers received a meritory service commendation.
“For his quick and decisive actions to begin CPR, which was directly responsible for infant’s ultimate recovery, Sgt. Calvert will be receiving the life-saving commendation,” Moberly Police Chief Troy Link said. “Officers Maag and Paige provided reassurance and comfort to the distressed parents. All three exemplified and embodied the professional and proactive policing the Moberly police department strives each day to provide.”
Abel was born with periventricular leukomalacia, a type of brain injury that affects premature infants, which involves the death of small areas of brain tissue, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Though that’s not what caused the baby to stop breathing, his parents were well aware of his already existing health conditions.
“Abel was born special,” Alicia Conway said. “He had only been home two weeks before this happened. He went downhill really fast. ...We fought very hard to keep him.”
In the few days prior to the emergency, Abel had developed bronchitis and meningitis, Alicia Conway said. He had been taken to a pediatrician two days before, and his parents were told he only had a stuffy nose.
Several officers overhead a 911 call involving a baby turning blue Aug. 30 at the Moberly Police Department. The scene was only a few blocks away from the office, so Calvert, Maag and Paige responded.
“As soon as the police officers got here, I didn’t even have time to lay the baby on the porch,” Alicia Conway said. “Sgt. Calvert grabbed him from me, laid him down and started resuscitating. As he was resuscitating, he was talking to Abel. He was telling him, ‘You can’t leave today, Abel.’”
Time was running out to resuscitate the infant and even if he did become responsive, Abel could have sustained major brain damage, because of a lack of oxygen. Brain cells begin to die after about five minutes without oxygen, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
“At that time, I felt like there was no hope at all,” Alicia Conway said. “Abel was really purple and he was so lifeless. Andrea Paige kind of kept me calm, because I couldn’t control the tears. Officer Calvert did amazing.”
Calvert, who conducts officer training at the department, said his own training took over.
“Being a training officer and a generalist instructor for the police academy, we tell people you’re going to resort back to the training,” Calvert said. “... My training was to do CPR, so that’s what was going through my mind. I was focused on that, I didn’t really have a whole lot of time to necessarily think too far ahead.”
He also praised the other officers in the situation for their ability to stay calm and assist in bringing Abel back. Maag stabilized the infant’s head while Calvert performed CPR and Paige comforted Abel’s parents.
They reverted back to their training, so I’m very proud of them,” Calvert said.
After several minutes of CPR, the Moberly Fire Department arrived and gave Abel oxygen, Calvert said. When the Randolph County Ambulance District arrived, Abel and his mother were transported to the University of Missouri Women and Children’s Hospital in Columbia.
Abel spent six days in the hospital while tests were conducted to find out why he stopped breathing, but he sustained no major lasting damage.
The infant’s mother praised the officers and other emergency responders who helped save Abel that day, saying she couldn’t have asked for better people to help.
“Sgt. Calvert got him to breath just before the time where any [brain] damage would have been done,” Alicia Conway said. “The most they’re thinking will come from this is maybe some muscle spasms.”
As a thank you, the Conways are planning to visit the station in the next few days so Abel can meet with the officers who saved his life.
“The baby is doing very well,” Calvert said. “Hopefully we’ll have a visit here in a couple days under better circumstances. We’re looking forward to it.”
Calvert has received other commendations in his 20-year career for “going above and beyond” in his job performance, but never one for saving a life.
“I’ve been in that position before with an infant and… numerous times with adults. I’ve seen people come back, and unfortunately I’ve seen where they didn’t,” he said. “It feels good, but any officer, I believe, in the same situation would have done the same thing.”