ABOVE, Cameron Smith and his mother Jeanette Bequette visited the Washington County Ambulance Department on Tuesday, March 14, for a first birthday party, here with the crew that helped to save his life, FROM LEFT, Paramedics Jessica Laird-King, Jim Hodges, Matt Bierman, 911 Dispatcher Derek Moss, paramedic Gene Howe, and Darrah Sabo, a student paramedic then, now a paramedic. BELOW, Laird-King plays with Cameron after arriving back from a call.
By Alex Haglund
One year ago, on March 13, Cameron Smith was born and, “he had a rough start to life,” said Washington County Ambulance Service Paramedic Matt Bierman.
Cameron’s mother, Jeanette Bequette, was unaware that she was pregnant. She thought that she had to go to the bathroom and he was born in the toilet. Were it not for the actions taken by first responders, that could have been the end of the story, but very fortunately, Chief Steve Millikin of the Okawville Police Department was first on scene and began CPR – his early action helped to save Cameron’s life.
Next, the Washington County Ambulance crew arrived. On the way to Washington County Hospital, the crew managed to get a pulse and with WCH staff, continued to stabilize Cameron.
At the same time, a specialty team was dispatched from Cardinal Glennon Hospital by helicopter and evacuated him there, where then spent 85 days in the NICU.
Cameron had deep brain trauma from the fall in the toilet, trauma which Bequette said his doctors say is healing very well now.
In addition, Cameron has had trouble putting on weight and remains on formula for the time being due to the greater number of calories it provides. He also has some issues with vision, which doctors will not be able to accurately assess until Cameron is a bit older and can communicate better.
Cameron has also spent time since his initial 85 day stay back in the hospital, for assessments, and for the flu. It’s been a struggle for someone so young to have already been through.
The upside to all of this, is that despite that struggle, Cameron brings joy to the lives around him – along with his mother, his father, Cary Smith, his grandmother Janet Groves, and his great aunt Hayley Groves all came out to the Washington County Ambulance Department headquarters with Cameron and Bequette on Tuesday, March 14, for a first birthday party and a reunion.
Cameron’s family is not the only ones who Cameron has brought joy to – “He’s got a special place in our hearts,” Bierman said.
“In our profession, we see a lot of bad outcomes,” Bierman continued. “It was great for us to get to see a good outcome.”
The other crew members who served on that fateful call a year ago all were pleased to see Smith, and they’ve been following along with Cameron’s story on his Facebook page – Team Cameron.
The admiration is mutual too, with a post on the Team Cameron page saying, “Big Thank you to the Washington County Ambulance from Cameron. Not just for the cake and presents but for breathing for him a year ago when he couldn’t,” and another referring to them as Cameron’s buddy’s/angels.
Bierman said that he has been a paramedic for 28 years, but it was 23 years before he had ever delivered his first baby.
“We see so many stories end in the back of the ambulance,” Bierman stated. “It’s nice to see one begin.”
With the case of Smith though, while Bierman said that he was proud of the work that Millikin, he and the ambulance crew did, in the end, saving Cameron’s life was in God’s hands – they were just there to help facilitate.