Binta Diallo says she was waiting in line for iced tea when a mother started pleading to her for help. The ICU nurse quickly sprang into action to save the mother’s infant’s life by performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. It was a once-in-a-lifetime encounter that Diallo will never forget.
Diallo, who works as a neuro ICU nurse at UNC-Chapel Hill, was in line in the bakery department at a grocery store in Cary, NC when a woman came up to her holding a child with a bloody nose. “I looked at the baby and it was just slumped, and she handed me the baby and I just took her,” she said.
Immediately, Diallo took the week-old baby to the front of the store and placed her on a bag of rice.
“When I was walking with the baby, her nose was just pouring with blood, so I used the blanket and kept cleaning her nose with it to make sure the baby was breathing. But when I looked at the baby it didn’t look like she was breathing.”
She quickly decided to perform CPR.
“I was trying to find a pulse, but the baby was little. I’ve done CPR on adults but never on a baby, but I just tried,” Diallo later recalled.
CPR on babies requires two-finger compressions instead of a full hand.
“I put my head on the baby’s chest and there was nothing, I couldn’t even feel a heartbeat. I just started doing CPR, but I don’t know how long I did it because her face had so much blood and every now and then I would clean her nose because I was looking for bubbles to see if she was breathing.”
It quickly became clear the CPR wasn’t having an effect. Diallo took off her mask to breathe into the infant’s mouth.
“Usually for a baby, you do the nose and the mouth, but there was so much blood I just took a big breath on her. Then the baby just gasped. She moved her head back and opened her eyes and at that point, I put my hand on her chest and I could hear a rapid heartbeat,” she said.
Once she heard the child breathing, the fire department arrived and took control of the situation. Diallo comforted the mother by telling her the child was still alive.
Experience Comes Full Circle
Diallo says it took a while for the shock to wear off, even though she saves lives for a living.
“When I handed over the baby something just went through me, and I just started shaking. Like this is real now.” After the ordeal was over, she went back inside to pick up her iced tea.
It didn’t occur to her until later that she’s been preparing for this moment since 2017. That’s when she created the non-profit “Save a Life,” which teaches providers in West Africa how to perform CPR on infants.
The region has the highest infant mortality rate in the world at 28.0 per 1,000 live births.
“I guess it’s a full circle,” she said. “We teach skills to nurses. We teach CPR on babies.”
Considering everything she’d just been through, Diallo felt like reaching out to make sure the baby was okay. She posted about her experience on the website Nextdoor, a virtual message board that lets locals find out what’s going on in their community.
“I walked back and one of the girls said, ‘That’s my sister,’ and she hugged me and she said thank you. I just went and sat in my car and cried,” she recounted. “I was thinking of the baby and the mom and that’s why I put the post on Nextdoor, I was hoping someone in the family would say ‘hey she’s fine.’
The post reads: “On 08/02 around 5pm something crazy and surreal happened to me inside the H-Mart store in Cary. I did CPR on a week-old baby and I was able to revive the baby. The fire department came and took over. I just left when the ambulance got there because I was so in shock. I still think about that mom and her baby every day. And praying the baby was okay.”
Her neighbors praised her for rushing to action, while reminding each other of the importance of getting CPR certified.
“The good thing that came out of this is that people are realizing the small skills you can learn can save your life or save your loved one’s life,” Diallo said.
The Cary Police Department says the child is alive and being treated at a local hospital.
“The family was out of town, so my thing is I hope they read this somewhere and get in contact with me,” Diallo said. “I would love to hold that baby again. Smiling, not looking like that.”