Baby found on doorstep recovers in intensive care

July 29, 1994|By Howard Libit and Sherrie Ruhl | Howard Libit and Sherrie Ruhl,Sun Staff Writers

Baby Jane Doe may be unknown but she is no longer unwanted.

The baby, who was abandoned in Southwest Baltimore just minutes after birth early yesterday, now sports a tiny white bow in her wispy black hair. Nurses at the University of Maryland Medical Center made it for her, using the ties of medical masks.

A radiant warmer helps keep her body temperature steady as she stays in the neonatal intensive care unit. And doctors say that so far she seems like most other 6-pound, 6-ounce newborns.

But of course she's not. The baby was found on a metal doorstep in front of a gray Pigtown rowhouse in the 1900 block of Wilhelm St. about 4:15 a.m. -- no more than 10 minutes after she was born, police said.

She was wrapped in a dirty cloth and two yellow plastic bags.

When Baby Jane was discovered in the rain by a young woman who lives on the narrow street, the umbilical cord and placenta still were intact.

"I came out the door and I heard cries," said the woman, who identified herself only as Keasha. "I looked over and saw this tiny hand sticking out of the bag. If that hand was inside the bag, the baby would still be on the steps because I would have thought it was the neighbor's garbage or something."

After discovering the baby, she ran into a neighbor's rowhouse, screaming for her to call 911.

Debbie Shore, 26, of the nearby 1800 block of McHenry St. was walking along Madison Street on her way to a store when she heard Keasha shouting.

Picking the baby up, Ms. Shore unwrapped the bag.

"I was looking at [the baby] for a while, and it started turning blue," she said. "It wasn't breathing, but I didn't know what to do. I set it in my lap, and my friend told me to breath into its nose and mouth.

"I did that, and finally the baby started crying again. I was so scared, but I got her to breathe."

Hours later, after Baby Jane had been taken by ambulance to the hospital, doctors discussed her condition at a news conference. Dr. Timothy Palmer, the attending physician, said Baby Jane was "doing fine" and might be transferred from the neonatal intensive care unit to the regular newborn unit within two days.

As police searched for Baby Jane's mother, the hospital was conducting a full range of tests on the newborn -- standard procedure for abandoned children -- but the results were not yet available. "She's an average baby, active and aware," Dr. Palmer said.

Very few newborns are abandoned in Baltimore, fewer than five per year, said Sue Fitzsimmons, spokeswoman for the city Department of Social Services.

Ms. Fitzsimmons said it is almost impossible to identify the mother of an abandoned newborn unless the woman turns herself in, which rarely happens.

"We don't even know what kind of a woman it is who abandons her newborn, because we don't have any cases when we found the mother. Unless someone in the close immediate family says something, there is no way to track the mother because newborns do not look anything like their parents," she said.

For Baby Jane to remain "just another baby," she needs a permanent home as quickly as possible, said Dr. Leon A. Rosenberg, a psychologist at Johns Hopkins Children Center.

"If we are really lucky and the baby is quickly moved into a family where the child is raised by decent people who love the child . . . the child will be just fine," he said.

If the reactions of the women who discovered Baby Jane are any indication, many people are ready to love and support her.

Yesterday, Keasha bought two "It's a girl!" balloons to decorate the newborn's hospital crib, and a pink outfit for her to wear when she is released into the custody of social services.

"I was up at 4 a.m. for a reason," Keasha said. "They say that everything happens for a reason, and saving that baby is the reason I was up.

"I was the only one who heard her and saw her. If she had been out there another 10 or 15 minutes, she never would have made it."

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