When two San Francisco police officers came upon an abandoned and lifeless newborn on a Bayview district street last week, their only choice was to react. If their emotions had gotten in the way or they had waited for someone else to save the day, a boy who had already been cast away by his mother would have spent mere minutes on this earth.
And while the young lawmen have been heralded as heroes for saving the child’s life, both said they are still trying to cope with the traumatic rain-soaked rescue.
On Monday, officers Steve Gritsch and Matt Cloud spoke publicly for the first time since encountering the barely 5-pound newborn who had been delivered on a sidewalk and then abandoned by his mother early Wednesday morning.
The cops — who are both fathers — described a harrowing several minutes inside their patrol car as Cloud drove to San Francisco General Hospital while Gritsch performed CPR on the boy in the back seat. Their decision not to wait for an ambulance is the reason the child is alive today, a proud Police Chief Greg Suhr said.
The incident unfolded about 2 a.m. when police received a call about a bleeding woman with a baby at Third Street and McKinnon Avenue. The child had been born about 30 minutes before police arrived, Suhr said. A man who was holding the baby, wrapped in a jacket, flagged down officers.
The child’s mother, 39-year-old Nneka Nash, reportedly handed the boy to the man and then walked away. She is facing charges in connection with the incident.
Then Gritsch and Cloud arrived at the scene. As fathers themselves, Cloud said, he and his partner immediately knew something was wrong.
“No movement, no screaming, no crying, no pulse,” Cloud said.
The child had a “blue body” and was “gasping, not breathing,” said Gritsch, who took the underweight newborn from the man’s arms.
Gritsch went to a nearby Muni platform to perform CPR as rain poured down on him. Being a former emergency medical technician in the North Bay, Gritsch said he had administered CPR many times before and did not believe the boy would pull through. Nevertheless, he and his partner remained determined.
“I wasn’t going to let that baby die on the platform in the rain,” Cloud said.
Cloud said he knew it would take at least 10 minutes for an ambulance to reach their location from General. So he fetched the patrol car.
Gritsch said it was difficult to administer CPR in the fast-moving vehicle.
“We were sliding around pretty good,” he said.
At one point, Gritsch became flooded with emotions.
“I recall hearing him crying and talking to the baby, just telling him to come back and breathe,” Cloud said. “That’s something I’ll never forget.”
Cloud said his challenge was to drive as fast as he could without endangering anyone.
During all this, the officers managed to notify the hospital’s trauma center of their impending arrival, which Gritsch said made a huge difference.
The medical staff also was praised for their part in the rescue.
“They truly are unsung heroes,” said Supervisor Malia Cohen, whose district includes the Bayview.
The officers, who have been partners for about two years, have since visited the hospital to check on the baby. He remains stable, police said, although cocaine was found in his system. Child Protective Services is now looking after the boy.
The officers are stuffing a Christmas stocking for the child — whom police are calling “Baby Boy Nash” — to commemorate the first holiday of his life.
Meanwhile, the baby’s mother is expected to be arraigned today on a felony count of willful cruelty to a child and a misdemeanor count of failure to provide care to a child.