Eau Claire (WQOW) – When a mom’s seven-week-old baby stopped breathing in the backseat, it was the help of two strangers pulling off the highway that saved the child’s life.
Last week, Amanda McKown was driving down Highway 53, taking her three kids to the pool one last time before the end of the summer. And then her oldest daughter said something that would scare any parent. “My daughter was in the backseat, who’s nine, and she alerted me that Ella [the baby] was kind of breathing something, or wasn’t breathing or looked funny,” Amanda remembers. “She made a funny sound and it didn’t sound right, like her other sounds,” Addison told her mom.
Amanda pulled over and took a look at seven-week-old Ella. She wasn’t breathing. She felt limp. Right away, she felt fear in her stomach. This hit too close to home. “We also lost our son Braxton at 38 weeks back in March of 2018, so through my head is ‘oh my gosh, who loses two babies? How can this be happening? How is this my life?’ And then that’s when I just started running, flagging somebody, thinking ‘I don’t even know what to do, I don’t have time to call 911, I just need somebody now.'”
And that somebody came. Lori Burns was the first to pull over. “I was on the highway and I noticed a car pulled over, and then as soon as I got closer I noticed… she pulled the baby out and I don’t know what happened, but I just felt in my heart at that time that this baby’s not breathing, and something is wrong,” said Lori.
Minutes after Lori pulled over, Serena Krejchi did too. Luckily for the McKowns and baby Ella, Serena is a former paramedic. “It all happened very fast,” Serena said.
“I just remember kinda going down on the ground and starting to do CPR and waiting and assessing.” Finally, they saw signs Ella might be okay. “After two rounds of compressions and breaths, I felt her take a gasp. And then she just kind of slowly started, her breathing kind of sped up a little bit.”
Lori remembers the relief everyone felt in that moment. “The beautiful thing about it was that her eyes opened,” Lori said. “I remember the mom, she must have been on the phone but she said ‘she’s breathing again.'”
Nobody was more relieved than Amanda that her little girl had some life back in her. “Serena said she did not have a pulse,” she said. “She … wasn’t alive for a period of time.”
It all happened so fast, and then it was over. Serena had revived Ella. Paramedics got there to evaluate Ella, but she seemed fine. “I remember the police officer saying, talking to the mom, and then he just came over to us and said ‘okay great job ladies, and you’re free to go,'” said Lori. “And I’m just like oh … will we ever know?”
Amanda had that revelation too: a total stranger had stopped on the side of the road and saved her baby’s life, and would have no idea if she survived. She needed to say thank you. “I thought, what a terrible feeling of stopping, saving someone’s life, or stopping and witnessing this, and not knowing what happened.” She turned to Facebook to search for the good Samaritans. “I just knew that I had to thank them and then let them know that she was okay.”
Two weeks later, Amanda, Addison, Carter and baby Ella got to reunite with the two women who helped save their family. “What a tiny miracle,” Serena said as she held the baby she basically brought back to life. “Just knowing that people are willing to stop and take that time and save somebody is just … I will forever be grateful and indebted to them,” said Amanda. “Serena and Lori did not have to stop. They had their own things going on that day. But they did stop, and it changed our lives for the better.”
For Serena, it’s a surreal feeling. She helped save a child – when that day, she was on her way to an appointment where she would be one step closer to adopting a child of her own. “To see her siblings go from being scared and uncertain and mom being scared and uncertain, to seeing them play on the playground and interact with their baby sister, it’s just… there’s no words,” Serena said. “A miracle.”