woke before dawn December 23, conscious that someone was entering the house. I quickly donned my housecoat and tiptoed downstairs. In the approaching dawn I recognized the silhouette in the doorway to be my husband’s.
Orie and I exchanged less than a dozen words before we heard the patter of little feet. Simultaneously, three pairs of arms encircled him and three faces smothered him with kisses. We knew now that although Orie had driven all night to be home for our daughter Wanda’s birthday, it was useless to go back to bed.
Shortly after Wanda’s birthday dinner, Ed Glause arrived on his way to Wisconsin to join his wife for the holidays. He stopped to wish us season’s greetings.We munched on cashews as we chatted. I gave an occasional nut to our 13monthold daughter, Faith Ellen. As the supper hour approached, we invited Ed to join us.
While I started the evening meal, Marvel, our 16yearold daughter, began setting the table. Before going into the kitchen I placed the sack of cashews far back on the buffet and told Wanda and Frankie not to take any more and not to give the baby any.
Before I could do more than place the kettles on the stove and turn on the heat, I heard a piercing scream from the living room. I dropped everything and ﬂew to the parlor. Faith was lying on the ﬂoor, and as I picked her up I asked what happened.
“She bumped her head!” Wanda told me. But something more serious was obviously wrong.
As Faith tried to scream again I saw a cashew in her mouth. Further searching revealed three small particles, all of which I removed, concluding that she had aspirated other pieces into her windpipe when she bumped her head. Faith tried to scream again, but emitted only a strangulated gasp and stiffened in my arms. I slapped her soundly between the shoulders as I called to Marvel, “Go call Daddy! Baby’s choking!”
“Pray! Pray!” I told Wanda. I never heard a 5yearold pray more earnestly.
Faith’s face was turning blue! Alarmed, I ran to the door, calling to Wanda over my shoulder, “Stay with Frankie! Tell Marvel I am taking Faith to the hospital.”
A Matter of Time
The sidewalk was a glare of ice. I seemed to slip back two steps for every step I took forward. Around the corner I rushed into the print shop as Harry Whitely, the printer’s son, was setting down the telephone. “Harry!” I cried. “Take me to the hospital—my baby’s choking!”
Without waiting for an answer, I rushed out to a car parked between his ofﬁce and our corner. Harry managed to get there ahead of me and open the car door for me. As he climbed in, Marvel came running across the yard. I opened the window and said, “Tell Daddy we’re taking the baby to the hospital,” as Harry fumbled for the keys.
As we drove, Harry interjected bits of advice as he honked the horn to let people know this was an emergency: “Turn her upside down! Pat her on the back! Shake her!”
Arriving at the hospital, Harry took the baby from me and raced to the emergency room and handed Faith to Dr. Foley, who was just leaving the emergency room.
After a quick examination, Dr. Foley announced, “I’m afraid this child is gone; her right lung is collapsed.”
“No, Doctor!” I cried in alarm. Half audibly I prayed, “Please, God, save my baby!” I could not—I would not—give my baby up without a ﬁght.
Dr. Foley gave me one glimmer of hope: “I’ll call Dr. Cook in Bay City; I don’t have a childsized bronchoscope to remove anything that far down.”
Bay City is nearly 200 miles away, I thought. We’ll never make it! “Aren’t there doctors in Petoskey who would have those instruments?” I asked. “That’s closer.”
“Maybe,” Dr. Foley admitted, “but I know Dr. Cook.”
Just then my husband and Ed rushed into the emergency room. I told Orie we would have to take Faith to Bay City immediately. Turning to the attending nurses, Dr. Foley asked, “How are we going to administer oxygen in the ambulance?”
“Doctor, my husband was a medic in the Army,” I said. “I’m sure he can take care of the oxygen.”
Dr. Foley welcomed the suggestion and proceeded to brief Orie on the emergency equipment. Joyce, one of the nurses, patted my shoulder reassuringly, handed me a comb, and reminded me that I was wearing an apron, but no coat. Ed went back to our house and brought me a coat. As the attendant wheeled Faith out to the waiting ambulance, Joyce squeezed my hand and whispered, “I’ll be praying, Ora; and I’ll ask the church to have special prayer, too. Tonight is prayer meeting night.” Hope revived with her comforting words.
Into the Night
Orie and I took our places on either side of the stretcher in the rear of the ambulance. Ed reached through the window and pressed some cash into Orie’s hand. “You’d better take it, Orie,” he said. “You may need more than you think.”
The ambulance driver, Mac, stepped on the accelerator and we were off! It was 7:00 p.m.
After what seemed like an hour I asked Mac, “Where are we?”
“Almost to Alpena.”
“Is that all?” I fairly shouted back.
Mac glanced back at me, then stepped harder on the gas. We were covering those icy roads at 90 miles an hour, yet it seemed as if we were only crawling.
Several times Faith fought for breath and we had to give her oxygen. Between administering oxygen and shifting positions to relieve our cramped muscles, I became nauseated. There was no emesis pan, so Orie handed me his hunting cap, which I obliged by ﬁlling it.
At last we reached Standish, 28 miles from our destination, and had to stop for gas. “Better give me that last oxygen tank, Mac,” Orie called out the window as Mac paid for the gas. We had used what was left of one tank at the hospital, another full one, and a third was nearly empty.
We never had time to hook up the fourth, however, as Faith began another mad ﬁght for life just as Mac pulled out of the station. To complicate matters, the mouthpiece suddenly disintegrated in my hands.
We fumbled franticly in the semidarkness to assemble the pieces properly, praying earnestly all the while.
The oxygen in the tank was getting dangerously low, and with Faith’s struggles, trying to keep the mouthpiece together and administer the oxygen, we watched helplessly as the level on the meter went down, down, down.
Then Mac announced, “The hospital’s just around the corner.” As we pulled into the emergency entrance the meter on the oxygen tank registered one pound.
A waiting nurse immediately took Faith and called the doctor, who arrived in a moment or two. Taking one shocked look at the little blue face, he wasted no time.
Orie and I returned to thank Mac for his part in saving Faith’s life. Laying an arm over our shoulders he assured us, “Everything’s going to be all right. Dr. Cook knows his business.”
The nurse returned and informed us that Dr. Cook had removed two pieces of nut from Faith’s bronchial tube and that she was responding nicely. That’s when Orie shocked me with this confession: “I’ve never operated an oxygen tank in my life.” There’s no doubt Who supervised those three hours of our lives.
We relaxed, but did not sleep, in the hospital lobby that night. Faith Ellen’s room was just off the lobby, so I checked on her frequently as she rested in her oxygen tent.
We received two calls from a nearby city where my fatherinlaw was visiting his niece. Dad’s niece told us she would light a candle for Faith. In addition, prayers ascended from our church, from Joyce’s church, from some Roman Catholic friends, and from friends from the local Jewish synagogue. The same God heard them all.
On Christmas morning Xrays revealed Faith’s lungs were clear and that we had a perfectly healthy baby. We thanked Dr. Cook for his wonderful service in saving our baby.
He looked at us for one long moment and said, “You can thank God you’ve got your baby.”
Of all the many Christmases I’ve celebrated since, that was the one I’ll always remember as the one that showed me how much God risked when He gave the world His only Son.
Ora May Baker lived in Harbor Springs, Michigan, when she wrote this article.