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Saving Zachary!

Our scariest morning… January 18, 2022!

As Zachary’s mom, Christina tells the story. “Zachary had been running a fever for a day and a half, we were pretty sure he had COVID because I had also started feeling symptoms.  Zach was sleeping in late, I was downstairs having coffee, keeping an eye on his baby monitor camera when I watched and heard Zach wake up screaming. 

I started up the stairs calling out to him that he was ok, I was on my way.  I picked him up out of his crib and he went limp, and I could feel his whole chest heaving against my body.  My brain triggered that he was struggling to breathe as I heard the very high-pitched whine every time he took in a breath.  I told Brad to call 9-1-1.  When I unzipped his footie pajamas, I saw his chest cave in halfway to his back with every inhale, his ribs bent in towards each other in a way I didn’t know was even possible.  I became hysterical and cried that he was dying which the 9-1-1 operator heard and assured Brad that the ambulance had already been dispatched. 

I turned on the shower the hottest it would go to create a steam room to help open up his lungs.  Brad came to the door and said that the fire department was almost here.  When they pulled up, he told them we had COVID, they said they didn’t care (they had their masks) and to show them the baby. 

Seconds later, the Engine EMT knocked on the bathroom door.  He had me bring Zach into the hallway and unzip his pajamas so they could get an O2 reader on him.   I tried my best to explain everything and then the Ambulance EMT arrived.  He had me undress Zach to get his temperature down.  Zach by this point was calm but his chest was still sucking in with every breath and that high pitched stridor sound was very prevalent. 

The EMT said that they had just been to the ER at Palomar Hospital, and it was full, so we decided to go to Rady’s Children’s Hospital.  He walked out the front door with Zach and started loading him in his car seat that was strapped to the gurney and helped me into the seat next to him.  The whole drive to the hospital the EMT put me at ease by talking about his son and asking me questions about Zachary with a level of kindness I can never repay.  He absolutely kept me from getting hysterical again.  He kept reassuring me that even though his breathing looked really bad, his O2 levels were still good, and he was getting the oxygen he needed into his blood. 

Over the 7 hours we were in the ER, Zach had a steroid to help calm the swelling in his esophagus and two epinephrine breathing treatments.  He looked and sounded about the same until 5-mintues after his second breathing treatment, that’s when he clearly got better.   Had it not been for the quick response of the EMT’s and Fire Department, the distress that Zachary was in could have become damaging or fatal.  What I most appreciate is that they showed up in the midst of our family’s nightmare with kindness and compassion and got our son quickly to a place where he could get the help he needed.  Without them, our nightmare day may have not had a happy ending.  For that, we are eternally grateful.”

Listen to Brad’s story of appreciation and his family’s support of their Escondido heroes

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On March 20, 2022, the Wilcko family hosted a thank you lunch for Escondido Station #4 and the EMTs and medics that they believe saved Zachary’s life that day.   The Wilcko family made a donation and encouraged everyone attending Zachary’s first birthday to make a donation to the San Diego Regional Fire Foundation.  A donation was also made by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (both Brad and Christina are air traffic controllers).