ORANGE — The premature baby looked warm and secure enough Wednesday, swaddled in a blanket with a blue knit cap covering his brown hair, as he lay in the Infant Special Care Unit at UCI Medical Center.
But just hours earlier, the newborn was discovered barely breathing, naked, blue with cold, and lying face down on the asphalt behind a dumpster in one of Santa Ana's worst drug-infested neighborhoods. He was the second baby found abandoned in Orange County this month.
Nicknamed "Adam," the baby--weighing only 4 pounds, 4 1/2 ounces--has captured the hearts of doctors and nurses at the medical center, where the infant was rushed after a police officer rescued him about 11 p.m. Tuesday. Doctors believe he was only 4 1/2 hours old and was born about five weeks prematurely.
"Every single person who has seen him wants to take him home," said nurse Patricia Hanson, who gave the infant his nickname. "He'll be all right here. We'll take care of him right."
Police Officer Michael Buelna, who was investigating an unrelated stabbing in the 1200 block of West Brook Street, found the infant between a concrete wall and a metal dumpster after neighbors waved him down. The neighbors told him that they had heard a baby crying and moaning for several minutes, police said.
When Buelna found him, the baby was blue from the cold and did not seemed to be breathing, said police investigator Alan Caddell. Buelna performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on the infant. After the baby began to cry--indicating that his lungs were working--the officer ran back to his patrol car with the infant and wrapped him in a blanket provided by the neighbors. Paramedics then rushed the infant to the hospital.
"There's no doubt that Mike had a big impact on whether the baby was going to live or die. He saved the baby," Caddell said.
Police believe the baby was born elsewhere and then left at the dumpster off Brook Street, Caddell said.
Brook Street is a notorious drug-selling area in Santa Ana. Police blocked off the street to traffic two years ago because of the high number of car chases for drug arrests.
Ruby Olivares, one of several neighbors who found the baby, said residents in the area were stunned.
"We were all saying, 'My God, who can do this?' " Olivares said. "He was so tiny and helpless. I wanted to pick him up and hold him tight."
Investigators are now searching for the mother of the infant, who could face charges of child abandonment. But Caddell said the police are more interested in reuniting the baby with his mother. Neighbors told police they saw a woman near the dumpster minutes before the baby was found. Police described the woman as being in her early 30s, with brown hair and an average build.
When the baby was brought to the emergency room, he was covered with bits of paper and food, said Denise Bamrick, a UCI clinical social worker.
"He was so cold and it was so traumatic for him," Bamrick said.
By Wednesday morning, "Adam Doe" was in good condition--pink-skinned and dressed in a UCI T-shirt, diapers, white socks and a blue knit cap that he tugged at every once in a while.
The infant looked even tinier than the other babies staying at the special care unit. Nurses say his biggest challenge now is to gain weight, maintain his temperature and learn how to suckle.
For now, Patricia Hanson is the infant's personal nurse and she stands by him like a doting mother. She named him "Adam" after her first glimpse of him.
"You look at the babies and some name pops into your mind like that. He's an Adam all right," said Hanson, who has four grown children.
She admits she felt anger when she had learned that Adam had been abandoned.
"I couldn't help feeling a little angry at the mother for doing that to him. But I don't know the circumstances or why he was left behind. For now, I'm just thankful he's alive," Hanson said.
"Adam" will stay at the medical center until the Orange County Social Services Agency takes custody of him.
Three weeks ago, another baby had been found abandoned, wrapped in a brown paper bag, on West Ball Road in Anaheim. After he was taken to Humana Hospital-West Anaheim, well-wishers showered the infant, nicknamed "Timmy," with toys and other gifts. Timmy is now living in an emergency foster home and is in good condition, a hospital spokeswoman said.