Deputies, paramedics help save newborn at Clackamas Town Center
On Sept. 30, eight days after their daughter Audrey was born, Jessie Siefer and Kaylob Harmon went to the Clackamas Town Center to capture the baby's first portrait photo. It was supposed to be a happy day. Then, Audrey stopped breathing.
"I was feeding her," Siefer said. "Like normal babies, she fell asleep ... then I moved her out from under her blanket and she was a different color."
Audrey was blue, a sight Harmon said he wouldn't wish on his worst enemy. They immediately called 911 as Harmon and some other people attempted CPR. That phone call brought the three Clackamas County deputies — Jonathan Zacharkiw, Jonah Russell and Dan Olson — running through the mall to reach Audrey and her parents.
"It felt like forever — but it was within seconds — [for the] deputies to save her life," Harmon recalled, "and they did save her life. They performed CPR, something I couldn't do."
Zacharkiw did chest compressions, Olson checked Audrey's airway and Russell stabilized her head. Zacharkiw turned her over, burped her to get the fluid out of her airway, then turned her around again. Russell used a bulbous sucker to get the fluid out of her nose.
About two minutes later, paramedics from the Clackamas Fire District #1 arrived and took over. Audrey was rushed to a nearby hospital.
As they were leaving, Harmon — not knowing whether his newborn daughter would survive or not — asked deputies if his daughter had a pulse. They confirmed she did.
"It's pretty amazing to hit 911 and have your daughter's life saved," Harmon said.
Since then, Audrey has been on a ventilator at Doernbecher Children's Hospital. She's been in the hospital a longer period of her life than she spent out of it. Doctors finally removed the breathing tube Oct. 9, another step in her healing process.
Audrey has been aware, Siefer and Kaylob said, and she's not exhibiting any signs of brain damage from the loss of oxygen. She's been following her parents around with her eyes. She's taken a liking to her father's beard, Harmon said.
"She's a daddy's girl for sure," Harmon said.
The scene, according to both Siefer and Harmon, is a nightmare they'll never forget. Siefer mentioned that if they were home, instead of at the mall, deputies might not have gotten there in time. They said they think about it nearly every hour.
"You remember every single frame," Harmon said. "It's pictures in a moment of blur. I dream about her blue face ... there are parts that are blurs and there are parts that are going to haunt me forever."
They also think about how they're lucky to be in this position. Along with those nightmares are dreams and memories of the deputies' heroic efforts. Harmon remembers the deputies sprinting in, moving him aside and immediately working on saving his daughter's life.
"They knew a baby wasn't breathing," Harmon said. "They were there to save a life."
A week later, Audrey's parents invited the deputies to visit at OHSU.
"She had her eyes open and she actually grabbed on to my hand," Deputy Zacharkiw said, "and it made me tear up pretty strong."
Harmon added: "She wouldn't be here without them. I hope she knows them for the rest of their life. Those men saved her life."
As for a thank you, Harmon, fighting back tears, struggled to find the words.
"Honestly, how do you say thank you [for saving your] child's life when you think they're not with you anymore," Harmon said. "You can't say thank you enough."