Location: Fontana, California
Date: May 9, 1992
Around midnight on May 9, 1992, nine weeks before her baby was due, Cora McElroy of Fontana, California, thought her water broke. She woke up her thirteen-year-old son, Michael, and asked him to watch his siblings while she went to the hospital for the delivery. Cora, an obstetrics nurse, wasn't too concerned until she turned on the hall light. Then she saw that blood, not water, was gushing out. "Oh, God, I'm losing the baby!" she cried to Michael. "Call your grandma on the phone!" As Cora lay down, Michael, who was scared to death by the sight of so much blood, called her mother, Barbara Gullick, an emergency room nurse who lived a few blocks away. Michael handed the phone to his mother, and Barbara told her to hang up and call 911.
San Bernardino County Communication Dispatcher Diane Crawford spoke to Cora as a rescue unit was sent to the house. Cora sounded panic-stricken as she told Diane that she was going to lose her baby. The dispatcher's first impression was Cora's water had indeed broken, which is sometimes accompanied by blood. She figured that Cora was about to have a basic delivery, but Cora told her that she was hemorrhaging and couldn't feel any fetal movement. When Diane learned that Cora was an obstetrics nurse, she learned that this woman had a lot of experience and knew exactly what was happening to her. Diane, worried that Cora might go into shock as a result of blood loss, instructed her to prop pillows underneath her legs and hips in order to keep her body elevated above her head.
"I'm shaking real bad," Cora told her. That's when Diane became scared for her. She knew shaking was a sign of going into shock. Cora could bleed to death at any moment. Diane tried to calm her by distracting her with light chitchat. She told her to have Michael go outside and flag down the medics, who would be there any minute.
EMTs from the San Bernardino County Agency and paramedics from Mercy Ambulance arrived within minutes of each other. Paramedic Mike Richardson saw at once that he had a life and death situation on his hands. He thought Cora suffered from abrupta placenta, a condition in which the placenta separates from the uterine wall. In 60 percent of these cases, the mother loses the baby. Barbara, who had arrived in time to watch the ambulance roll away, was keenly aware of losing both her daughter and her grandchild.
Cora was rushed to Kaiser Permanente Hospital, where she worked as a nurse. A medical team, headed by obstetrician Rodney Parker, met her arrival. He confirmed through ultrasound that her placenta had separated from the uterine wall. An emergency Caesarian section had to be performed immediately to save mother and child. Cora's baby came out blue and limp, and wasn't moving or breathing. Doctors manually pushed air into his lungs through a tube inserted into his body. After five minutes, the baby started to breathe on his own. It seemed that he was going to live.
Today, Joshua is a healthy baby, and Cora is doing fine. Michael is grateful that his little brother made such an amazing comeback. "I love my mother a whole lot, and I'm glad she and the baby are okay." Cora feels she owes a lot to Diane Crawford. "She's the reason I have Joshua today. She was so quick in dispatching help. One or two minutes could have made the difference in Joshua being here." Diane is happy that Cora is so appreciate, but she feels she didn't do anything special. "I was just doing my job to the best of my ability."