'That's why we show up to work' forest preserve ranger officer says of save
He happened to be in the right place at the right time, but Lake County Forest Preserve District police officer Brad Ehrhardt said he did what any decent person would have done to ensure a newborn girl was safe.
Ehrhardt, a 13-year department veteran, was honored at a recent forest preserve district board meeting for his quick action resulting in the resuscitation of the 8-day-old infant.
In the big picture, what transpired on a misty morning in mid-April almost seemed meant to be. Ranger officers start early, so about 10:30 a.m. Ehrhardt was heading to lunch. His first choice was too crowded, so Ehrhardt was looking for a lower-key option as he traveled north on Route 45 just south of Route 60 in Mundelein.
A car heading east on a side street toward Route 45 noticed as he approached.
"They flashed their lights and honked their horn, so obviously they had some distress," Ehrhardt recalled.
Earhardt said he whipped into the first parking lot he saw. As he got out of his car, a woman holding the infant was running toward him.
"It was obvious there was something wrong. She said, 'My baby's not' and she didn't finish saying 'breathing' because I could tell," Ehrhardt said.
He grabbed the baby and turned it over on his arm.
"She made a noise and stuff like phlegm or milk or whatever, mucus, came out of her mouth and nose. I sat her back up and she started making noises, you could tell she started breathing a little bit," Ehrhardt said.
Ehrhardt said he assured the panicked woman he wouldn't leave until an ambulance arrived. He said the biggest part of what he did was make the woman feel like everything would be OK even in a dire situation.
"They were in need so I helped them not have the worst day ever," Ehrhardt said. "I'm just glad they saw me at the right time because if it was a minute, two minutes (later) and the baby didn't breathe, things would have been very different." The woman did not want to go public.
Ehrhardt is an Army veteran and military police officer from 1996 to 2005. He was deployed to Bosnia and Egypt, and left the service with the rank of sergeant. At the forest preserve district, he is a master firearms instructor.
"Brad is a tremendous senior officer who did what he's trained to do," said John Tannahill, director of public safety at the Lake County Forest Preserves. "He was thrust into a high-stress situation and performed admirably."
Tannahill said that even though the situation did not happen in a forest preserve, it was his duty to respond. All of ranger police officers are trained to handle emergency situations and receive CPR training, are certified in first aid, automated external defibrillators and Narcan, a nasal spray used to treat an opioid overdose.
"That's why they have us -- to make sure everybody can enjoy themselves safely," in the forest preserves, said Ehrhardt, who downplayed his involvement.
"In a situation where maybe other people would have not wanted to engage, they understand that we as law enforcement people everywhere are there when you need us," he said.