Hospital housekeeper credited with saving life of abandoned newborn

Through the emergency room in a Ukrainian Village hospital was awake and bustling around 3 a.m. Tuesday, a newborn girl was left alone around the corner, wrapped in just a jacket.

No one heard the baby, who hospital staff said was bloody, dirty and had “just came out of the womb.”

She was left at the foot of Nazareth Family Center, a separate office building that had been closed since 8 p.m. and is about a five-minute walk to the main lobby of Presence Sts. Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center.

So alone in the dark she lay, next to a trash can by the front door, until Teresa Alvarez showed up for her 3 a.m. housekeeping shift.

She noticed the jacket on the floor and went to pick up what was out of place, thinking it was left behind or dropped accidentally. As she got closer, it moved.

“My God, what is that,” she said she thought to herself. She unwrapped it, saw the baby as it cried out and called 911. Then she waited, worried.

“They were not coming fast, so I called security,” she said. “An ambulance came and took the baby to the hospital.”

The child was treated at Presence before being transferred to Lurie Children’s Hospital “in really great shape,” said Robert Scarola, the hospital system’s spokesman.

Alvarez, 58, has worked at Presence for 20 years. Had she not come in for work Tuesday morning, the baby “wouldn’t have made it,” said John Hennelly, another hospital administrator.

“The core temperature of the body was dropping,” Hennelly said. Around the time Alvarez showed up, it was about 55 degrees in the city, according to the National Weather Service.

It’s unclear when the child was dropped off. “We don’t have any cameras showing what happened, when it happened. We just know it happened before 3 o’clock,” Hennelly said.

Though the Illinois Safe Haven Law allows infants 30 days or younger to be dropped off at any hospital, police station or staffed fire station, it requires a physical handoff to happen. If the child is handed to a staff member unharmed — even anonymously — parents can’t be prosecuted for abandonment.

The baby found at Presence was dropped off at a hospital campus, but she was not given to a caregiver. Because of that, the Department of Children and Family Services said it is investigating.

That means they will also search for the next of kin, said DCFS spokeswoman Veronice Resa, which could mean a parent, a family member or an “important family figure.” Any adoption process for the baby is in limbo until the investigation is complete.

The last time Presence had a newborn dropped off was eight years ago. In that case, there was also a “failure to give it to a caregiver,” Hennelly said. The child was instead left in a hospital bathroom.

Alvarez has two children of her own – both sons, 28 and 29.

“I wanted to pick it up, but I don’t know,” she said, concerned about hurting the baby she found. “But she is OK now.”

By: Rachel Crosby
Chicago Tribune
November 4, 2015, 7:04 AM

rcrosby@tribpub.com

Twitter @rachelacrosby

A link to the original story can be found by clicking here.

Hospital housekeeper credited with saving life of abandoned newborn

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