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St. Paul Firefighters Commended for Efforts to Save Premature Baby, Mom

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Twelve St. Paul firefighters were awarded department commendations today for their efforts to rescue a woman and her baby, who was born months prematurely at home.

The 23-week-old baby did not survive, but the mother did.

"So often in our department we do great things and we save lives and, according to you folks -- the modest ones that do this work -- it's all just in a day's work, it's part of the job," Chief Tim Butler said to the assembled firefighters. "... I think you went way above and beyond what we normally do. It might not be above your duty, your normal calling in life, but nobody else on this planet could do that kind of stuff with that kind of result."

On Jan. 5, about 5 a.m., paramedics were called to a home in the 300 block of Stinson Street, where a woman had just given birth. The baby was about 23 weeks old. Normal gestation is 40 weeks.

For the four members of paramedic rig No. 22, who had been working since 8 a.m. Jan. 4, the call was the fifth they had handled since midnight Jan. 5.

The baby boy weighed about 1 pound and fit in one hand of Firefighter Ben Schenck, who rushed him to the ambulance.

"I know it left a lasting impression on Ben," Butler said. "Fifty years from now, he'll be remembering that particular run."

Schenck and Firefighter Jovan Palmieri gave the baby CPR on the way to Children's Hospitals and Clinics in St. Paul. The baby had been breathing, but not much.

Firefighter Ken Adams was the acting captain for the rig. He instructed Firefighter Andy Vorlicek -- who had paramedic experience, but was on only the third day of the job in St. Paul -- to stay behind with the mother until backup arrived. The three other paramedics went with the baby to the hospital.

"Three days onto the job and he's left behind with a mother who's bleeding to death and unconscious as the rest of the crew goes out the door," Butler said of Vorlicek. "I just could imagine him thinking how lonely this was going to be until the cavalry showed up."

The woman regained consciousness, and the cavalry arrived -- the crews from ladder truck No. 22 and paramedic rig No. 18.

The woman was taken to the hospital and recovered, Butler said. The baby died about seven hours after it arrived at the hospital.

The 12 firefighters who won the unit commendations were from paramedic rigs No. 18 and 22, and ladder truck No. 22.

The crew on paramedic rig No. 18 was Capt. Larry Christopherson, Mark Slaikeu, Jeremy Larson and Jerry Gilbert. The crew on ladder truck No. 22 was Capt. Mike Smith, Terry Grufman, John D'Amato and Tony Farina.

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