U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, a Republican from Maryland and a medical doctor by profession, helped save a two-year-old boy who had stopped breathing in his family's vehicle as they drove along Route 50 in Talbot County, the legislator and the boy's parents confirmed Tuesday.
The harrowing incident occurred on Aug. 26 as strong thunderstorms flooded many parts of the state, closing roads and causing Harris to take a detour that evening that put him near Brian and Jess Smith and their two young sons just in their time of need, said Harris and the Smiths.
"It was just a miracle," said Charles Jones, the boy's maternal grandfather, who publicly thanked Harris on the legislator's Facebook page. "All the right people were put there at that time, in a storm."
The Smiths, who live in Princess Anne in Somerset County, were driving home with their two sons — Nathan, 27 months, and Parker, 8 months — after spending the weekend at Jones' home in Sparrows Point when Jess Smith turned around to check on the boys in the back seat and noticed Nathan "was blue."
"It was the most terrifying thing I ever had to go through," she said.
The couple stopped their truck off southbound Route 50 and jumped out, thinking Nathan was choking on something. Brian Smith, a volunteer firefighter, held his son upside down and searched his airway, but couldn't find anything, he said.
"I thought he wasn't breathing at all," Smith said. "I was losing my 2-year-old, that's what it felt like. It felt like he was already dead in my arms."
Soon after, Harris and his family, who had been spending time at their Cambridge home, were driving northbound on Route 50 after taking a detour around flooded areas when Harris saw three cars stopped on the other side of the road with their doors open.
"It looked a little strange because there was no damage to any of their cars," said Harris, a father of five and an anesthesiologist who works at Memorial Hospital at Easton. Then he noticed Nathan on a blanket on the ground behind one of the cars, and turned his car around.
Harris said he knew the boy needed air, and turned him on his side and loosened his jaw to open his airway. At that point, the boy gasped, he said. An ambulance then arrived and took over the medical care of the boy.
Doctors at Memorial Hospital told the family Nathan had a viral infection that caused the rapid onset of a fever, which in turn caused the boy to have a seizure and stop breathing, Brian Smith said. But with medical care, Nathan was soon better, his mother said.
"Within a couple hours he was back to his regular self, eating and drinking and running around," she said.