Someone's life can be saved when you least expect it.
Angelina Dickson, an emergency medical dispatcher for the Weirton Area Ambulance and Rescue Squad, was working a regular shift Friday when a call came in around 1:30 a.m.
"The call said that a 10-month-old baby was choking and wasn't breathing," said Dickson. "I instructed the mother how to lay the infant down properly and check the airways. When she answered that there was nothing (blocking the airways), I walked her through performing CPR."
The infant was Erica Smith, the daughter of Sean and Debbie Smith of Weirton, and the youngest of their three children.
Sean Smith said around 1:30 a.m. he was heading to bed when his wife heard the infant making a cackling sound from her room. He said that when he checked, the baby wasn't breathing.
"It sounded like she was getting more air out than in. I tried the baby Heimlich maneuver, but she wasn't choking. That's when we called 911 and got Angelina," he said. "She directed my wife on how to instruct me to perform the CPR, and it got me back in the rhythm. Erica was going leathery and blue in the face, and the breathing helped bring life back in her."
He said it was another five or six minutes until the ambulance arrived. The infant was suffering from a fever-induced convulsion, with a temperature of 104 degrees.
Paramedic Jeff Cline was the first responder, and he said the CPR allowed the brain to oxygenate.
"If the infant wouldn't have had that, within six minutes of respiratory arrest if no air is received brain damage can occur," said Cline.
He said that when he arrived on the scene the infant was pale and limp and, worst of all, quiet. Cline said her breathing was so shallow it could not sustain life.
Luckily, according to Cline, the infant never lost her pulse and the CPR made it much easier to save the infant's life.
On Tuesday, Dickson had a chance to meet the family and infant girl she helped save.
"Just knowing I helped someone in a time of physical or emotional distress is one thing, but actually seeing the result of everyone involved, it was overwhelming," said Dickson, who also is a reporter with the Weirton Daily Times. "It was heart-warming to know this family didn't have to bury their child, and I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to see her alive and well."
Sean Smith said things are back to normal now, and Erica is once again a healthy and playful baby.
"It's just one of those things you think will never happen, and I'm hopeful that others don't have to go through it," he said.
"It's hard to put into words. I'm a very faithful person and believe everything happens for a reason, good or bad, and that there is always a lesson in everything. When I knew what I had to do, I felt instantly calm, and I'm so thankful to be used as a tool to save this baby's life," said Dickson.
Weirton Area Ambulance and Rescue Squad is the only station in Hancock or Brooke counties to be certified to instruct CPR over the phone.