Community Opinions

COLUMN: Captain’s Log—How to save a life

Eric Taylor with the Sheriff's Office writes about responding to a drowning and "the heroism shown by many people yesterday."

This column was contributed by San Benito County Sheriff Captain Eric Taylor. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent BenitoLink or other affiliated contributors.

I had a column ready to go that spoke to local gang activity and my ideas as to why it exists and how we can deal with it.  However, an event happened yesterday that I feel needs to be shared. I want this column to give insight into areas of public safety you would otherwise not know.

There are experiences in the life of a first responder that leave imprints on your mind. Unfortunately they are almost exclusively negative and are often horrific scenes of human suffering. That is especially true when it comes to responding to calls that involve children. There are many in my career that haunt me to this day. But none have stayed with me as much as when a newborn infant was left to perish below a river levee, a three-year-old little angel named “Bella” was killed by her own mother, and a call I had where a two-year-old darling died from SIDS, coincidentally named “Isabella.”

Yesterday was set to be horrific child-death number four. I want to share the heroism shown by many people yesterday. This event was unlike any I have ever experienced in my life.

I was alerted to a call regarding a four-year-old girl who had drowned. Based on the way that call was being broadcast, I was certain the child had passed. Being close by, I responded to fulfill one of the roles our office as the Coroner. I had to mentally prepare myself for the anguish of seeing the family in distress, a dead child, and was preparing for the battle of removing the baby from her parents arms to take her to the morgue. All these thoughts were racing through my mind as I was driving a very short distance to get to the home.

Upon arrival, I saw Hollister Fire, AMR, and Hollister Police personnel all working frantically to control the scene. As I entered the home, there were cries of siblings as they scurried around, trying to figure out what to do. Then Hollister Fire and AMR medics emerged from the back of the house, running to the front door with a tiny “backboard.” As they passed me, I saw a very little girl, lifeless, and immediately noticed the hue of her skin was not right. I heard the medics saying she had no pulse and was not breathing.

As the medics loaded her into the ambulance, I ran to my truck to follow as to not lose sight of the “body” I would need to collect for our investigation. For the first time in my career, I saw the medics as “kids.” They looked so young themselves. I turned my lights and sirens on and followed them to Hazel Hawkins Hospital.

What happened next has forever changed the way I view our Fire, AMR and emergency room teams.

I ran in behind the two medics and saw a huge team waiting in the exam room. The little child was still lifeless and discolored. Once the team received her, work began immediately. Then I heard Dr. Michael Bogey’s voice and felt a rush of confidence run over me that this child had the best chance because he was there. I have not known Dr. Bogey for very long, but he has a phenomenal reputation and an aura about him that lets you know he is always “dialed-in.”

Unfortunately I do not know the names of all the staff that were on Dr. Bogey’s team, and I have little knowledge of their roles. However, what I saw was a team of professionals who were calm, collected, and focused. One female grabbed a clipboard and began taking notes. I had no idea how important that would prove to be. One of the young medics volunteered to do chest compressions while another female worked to insert a breathing tube. I could hear someone yelling for “epi!” I assumed this was a reference to epinephrine (adrenaline), but I was not totally sure. This team worked, shouting orders and instructions for upwards of 30 minutes. They would often check in with the female keeping notes to recall what medications were administered when, and at what dose. Then someone would yell “30 seconds to epi” where another would echo “epi in 30!” Then they would count down and someone would step in and give another dose. At the same time, Dr. Bogey called for an “ultrasound” machine where I was able to watch what the heart was doing in “real time.” As the medics rotated through the CPR duties, Dr. Bogey would have them stop and watch as the heart would struggle to keep going and then stop.

Dr. Bogey instructed staff to get the mother and father to the exam room. When mom and dad got there, and while actively working to save the child’s life, Dr. Bogey calmly told the parents what he was trying to do to save their baby, that it may not work, and what the plan was if he got her heart going again. He then encouraged them to touch her and talk to her. It was the most intense moment of my career. To watch the loving touch and voice of a father while medical staff was trying to actively bring his child back to life.

By this time the room, and adjacent rooms, were packed with deputies, Hollister police officers, and hospital staff. After about the fourth time the heart did not start beating, I called a detective to the hospital in anticipation of having to step in as the coroner.

All of a sudden, while a break was called in CPR to check the heart, we watched as the heart continued to beat. Dr. Bogey watched on the ultrasound as the heart was beating and asked if the monitor was showing the same. “65 beats” someone yelled. Chest x-rays were ordered and performed while all other work was still progressing. A staff member was calmly directing others to retrieve supplies out of her view. She would say, “bottom drawer, second from bottom, left side, grab the…” and would name some apparatus she needed. She was doing this while working on the patient. She had memorized where everything was, and directed people to it, under stress, without looking. Incredible.

A helicopter was called; the child was prepped then flown to Stanford with mom on board. Dr. Bogey turned to dad and cautioned him on driving to Stanford. I offered a deputy to drive him; lights and siren, and thankfully father agreed and let us get him there safely.

I did not have to step in as the coroner. Again, incredible.

I cannot express the heroism that occurred on April 30. Dr. Bogey called us all into the room after the child and parents had left. He looked at his staff, and thanked them. He said there were no guarantees of how it would turn out, but thanked them for bringing her back to life. Had the Hollister firefighters not decided to “scoop and run,” the child may not have survived. This was a critical decision made by the fire crew that ultimately impacted the outcome. Had the AMR medics not been so great at their lifesaving efforts, the outcome would have been different. Had the SCR-911 dispatchers not been so well-versed in their call taking, instructions and dispatching, this may have ended differently.

So we all left. My staff impacted by what they had just gone through. Four adult men, all with children of their own. One texted me later as we were all home asking “Status?” Another texted me an emoji of praying hands. I would later get a text from a deputy saying, “Just got an update… She is doing so much better. Breathing tube is out, pretty much breathing on her own, and all meds are discontinued… Meaning her heart is doing great!!!” Then another deputy texted me, “I just want to say I almost lost it in the ER. I can’t stop seeing them pushing on her chest. I want to do something for her when she gets home.”

Throughout our careers we are involved in many negative things. Sometimes we come off as cold, disinterested and worn down. Please know we care about each and every one of you. We don’t “leave work at the office.” I am so honored to work in a place where our first responders and hospital staff are on top of their game when it counts. We aren’t perfect, but I can assure you we care for you as if you were our own family when your life is on the line. This column is dedicated to the heroism of the staff of the Hollister Fire Department, American Medical Response, and Hazel Hawkins Hospital. And to Dr. Bogey, I will forever be in awe of what you did. I feel like you saved MY own child yesterday. I will always see her that way. Thank you.



Sheriff Eric Taylor

I am the Sheriff and Coroner for the San Benito County Sheriff's Office. I have over 23 years of law enforcement experience. I am in my 9th year in the San Benito County Sheriff's Office and also served the Watsonville Police Department for 15 years. I am a court-certified expert in Hispanic Criminal Street Gangs and Use of Force. The views expressed in my column are my own and are not reflective of the County of San Benito.