In a surprise emotional reunion, parents Colby and Rachel Whelan of Halifax offered their 3-month old daughter Avery to the arms of Captain Matthew Cunningham on Sunday at the Halifax Fire Open House. With visible emotions, Cunningham cuddled the baby he helped save on July 19.
“She is the best birthday present”, he said as he looked at her bright eyes. The desperate call fell on his birthday, a day he will not soon forget.
“It’s the type of call that you hope you go your whole career without getting,” said Captain Cunningham who spoke after the reunion aside fellow paramedics and Halifax Fire Chief Jason Viveiros.
“I’ve been on similar calls that unfortunately didn’t go as well. Luckily for all of us, circumstances could not have been better,” he said
That crucial day they had a full medical crew available, an address neighboring the fire station, and Rachel herself, CPR certified, all working in favor for little Avery who at just 12 days old was in full cardiac arrest.
Her training taking over, Rachel was given pre- arrival directions by the 911 dispatcher and paramedics continued to revive Avery moments later until they reached Signature Health Care Brockton Hospital. Avery had open-heart surgery the next day at Tufts Children’s Hospital in Boston.
“The incredible response time and focus you gave in this emergency- you saved her brain. You saved her life,” said Avery’s father Colby as he spoke to EMTs and Viveiros on Sunday.
Avery will need continuous medical care; however, Rachel describes her as a happy, feisty baby who is doing ‘awesome’. “Better than we can imagine,” she said.
Also responding that day were PJ Hogan, Shamus Ricciarelli, and Joe Gibbons, with Chief Jason Viveiros who drove Rachel to the hospital as medics sped away with her infant.
“That call validates everything that we do, all the years of school and re- certification classes we undergo. That call is why we do what we do. I’m just glad that the outcome was positive and that I was able to be a part of it. “ “I’d be lying if I said I haven’t thought about Avery every single day since July 19. To see Avery come in with her parents completely, neurologically unaffected by what she went through, and being able to hold her, gave me a feeling of satisfaction that I hadn’t yet experienced in my 13-year career,” said Cunningham.