Paramedics are trained to deal with life-threatening situations, but when they are off-duty and woken up by a screaming woman holding a lethargic infant, it can be quite overwhelming. That’s exactly what happened last week to Eric Watson, an off-duty paramedic for Montgomery County Hospital District.
Watson was at his home in New Caney on Aug. 9 when he heard someone pounding on the door of his home.
“I was taking a nap while everyone was out of the house. I had my dog in bed with me and woke up to the dog barking at someone beating on the door. I heard a woman screaming, so I ran to the door,” Watson remembers. “When I opened the door, I saw my neighbor holding her 19-day-old baby. She was lethargic, pale and slumped over.”
Adding to the stress of the moment is that the neighbors were complete strangers and the mother only spoke in Spanish, which Watson could not understand.
“They were on the phone with 911 and dispatch was trying to find out where to send the unit, but the dispatcher who answered didn’t speak Spanish either, so she had to be switched over to a Spanish operator,” Watson said.
While the mother and the dispatcher communicated by phone, Watson took charge of the baby, assessing her medical needs.
“She was making choking sounds,” he said. “I gave the dispatcher my address and the mom walked off with the phone and left me with the baby and her sister. We were sitting there for a minute or so until [MCHD] Unit 35 arrived. Luckily for us all, the fire station was right around the corner, so they got there quickly.”
By the time the medics arrived, Watson had cleared whatever was blocking the child’s airway, and she was breathing again.
“I think she was choking on milk and saliva. When they are that young, babies sometimes have a hard time clearing their airways. I couldn’t find anything hard in her airway thankfully,” he said. “The milk and saliva were cutting off her air supply. When the mom handed her to me, she would go back and forth between crying and fading out. At first, I thought it might be an absent seizure. She would look off in the distance and go back to crying.”
The child was whisked away to Kingwood Hospital for further evaluation, and was released a couple of hours later. Watson is thankful he was in the right place at the right time.
“I am happy I was able to help and be involved in a positive outcome for this child,” he said.
According to Watson, this event was the first time he has been involved in a rescue off-duty. He has been a paramedic for five years. He started working for Montgomery County Hospital District in 2022. He also works part-time for Mont Belvieu EMS. Before that, he worked for Liberty County and Liberty Fire Department, and contracted overseas as a medic.
“Even when we are off the clock, we aren’t always off the clock. I always make jokes about not working on my days off, but when you are needed, what person in their right mind is not going to help?” he said.
The whole event was captured on Watson’s Ring door bell. His wife, Ashley, shared a screen shot from the camera on Facebook.
“Eric saved that little one’s life and I got to watch him work his magic on the Ring camera!” she wrote.
Ashley said later that their 10-year-old son, Zane, was so excited about his father saving the baby that he was brought to tears.
“I’m so proud of my husband. Great job, my love!” Ashley said.