Mom thanks good samaritan after 'terrifying situation' with baby

Melissa McEachern Clow

A P.E.I. mom has reached out on Facebook to find and thank the Good Samaritan who stopped to help during "the most terrifying situation I've ever been in."

Corinne McQuillan and Cody McEachern were driving home to Cornwall after shopping at Walmart on Thursday when it sounded like their 18-month-old son, Archer, was about to throw up in his car seat.

They pulled over onto Upton Road and as they got out of the car, they noticed Archer was turning blue and his eyes were rolling into the back of his head. He was having a seizure.

"I didn't know what was going on," McQuillan said. "I didn't know if my son was going to live."

They quickly unbuckled him and got him out of the car.

What now?

Call 911? Try CPR? Yes, McQuillan just happens to be trained in it.

But under extreme stress, McQuillan said all her training "went out the window."

"I didn't know how to do anything," she said. "It was just the most terrifying situation I've ever been in."

Woman heard screaming

As the distraught parents waited on the side of the road, a woman who had stepped off the bus moments earlier heard McQuillan screaming and ran back to help.

The woman picked up Archer and began patting his back, McQuillan said.

I was terrified that he was dying — Corinne McQuillan

"Then he spit up and just started breathing, like he wasn't really crying. He was just kind of like dazed, like he was awake and breathing which is great.

"But he still wasn't normal."

The woman stayed with Archer and the couple until the ambulance arrived, McQuillan said. She said a man, and older woman and an off-duty police officer also stopped to help.

Febrile seizure

When they got to the hospital, they were told Archer had a febrile seizure.

According to the Canadian Pediatric Society, febrile seizures can be scary to see, but aren't as dangerous as they look.

They happen in two to five per cent of children between the ages of six months and five years old, the society says. They are caused by fever, last only a few minutes and have no long-term effects.

But as a parent, McQuillan said, it's one of those things where "you never know for sure." 

"I was terrified that he was dying… Even now I close my eyes and I still see him just turning blue and the eyes rolling in the back of his head. It's kind of one of those things, at this moment, it doesn't seem like it really happened."

McQuillan said Archer was back to normal even before they left the hospital, crawling around and playing "like nothing happened."

"I look at him now and I'm so very, very thankful."

That's why they wanted to find the woman who ran back to help them.

McEachern's mother, Archer's grandmother, posted a message on Facebook asking for help finding the woman. It was shared hundreds of times, and a day later, they found her.

Her name is Justyn Caldwell, a preschool teacher who was walking home from work. She is trained in first aid.

"I heard Corinne screaming for help and I turned around and I saw that their little boy was in trouble and I just ran over," she said. 

"I don't honestly remember all of it. It was just, 'Act now and hope to God that I'm helping this family and this little boy.'"

Planning to meet

Caldwell had been wondering about Archer and the family when a friend showed her the Facebook post. Then she contacted McQuillan.

"I felt just happy for the family and just happy that that everything worked out," Caldwell said.

"Leaving there I'm thinking, 'OK, he's breathing now.' I didn't know what was going to happen afterwards or whatever and so knowing that he was home and happy and healthy, it kind of just settled my my heart a little bit more." 

The family is planning to meet with Caldwell in person on Monday. Archer's grandmother is planning a thank-you basket.

"Now that everything is settled we wanted to just tell her how thankful we are," McQuillan said. "Nowadays, people could have just driven by and not even thought secondly about it. Whereas, we had multiple people stop and ask if we were OK."