A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer working at the San Ysidro Port of Entry was recently reunited with the baby girl he delivered then performed life saving measures leading to her taking her first breaths.
CBP officials along with the U.S. Consulate in Tijuana, coordinated the first meeting between the officer and the little girl, Friday.
Officer J. Lott remembers that cold December morning very well. It is also an experience Alexa Garcia, 5, and her parents will reflect on every year she blows out her birthday candles.
“I am just happy that I was there to help,” Lott said. “To be able to assist in something like that is absolutely amazing, and it’s a memory I will have the rest of my life.”
That Dec. 8, 2016, began as a typical date at the port of entry. The lanes were filled with travelers, and officers were inspecting travelers, vehicles, monitoring the lanes — their usual duties, when the call came over the radio. There was an emergency in the vehicle secondary area and time was of the essence. Lott immediately grabbed his medical bag to respond to the call.
At the scene, he observed a distressed female traveler in a vehicle going into labor. The birth was imminent, and it was going to happen at the San Ysidro Port of Entry. Utilizing his training and experience as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), Lott remained calm and prepared to bring the baby into the world.
“I just trusted my training. I knew if I remained calm, the mother, the father, and everyone around me would stay calm,” Lott recalled. “Although deep down inside I did not want to fail them,” he added.
Delivering a baby under normal conditions in a hospital setting is one thing but remaining calm while trying to deliver a baby in a car at one of the busiest land borders in the country is not a typical setting. Now add the challenge of trying to deliver a breeched baby in those conditions and the stress level can skyrocket.
A breech birth is when the baby’s feet or buttocks are positioned to be delivered first, instead of the baby’s head. This type of situation makes for a long, dangerous, and difficult birth.
After a long birthing process, Lott and the mother successfully delivered a baby girl. However, the danger was not over, the newborn was turning blue and not breathing. Lott wiped off the excessive blood from the baby’s face, and began suctioning the nose and mouth, followed by several chest compressions.
“She was really blue, she wasn’t breathing, and unresponsive,” Lott recalled. “I quickly administered chest compressions, and after about five or six, she started crying. I was already on my knees, and I just buckled. I remember saying to myself, just keep on breathing baby, just keep on breathing, please.”
Two months shy of her 6th birthday, Lott and his wife were waiting at the San Ysidro Port of Entry to meet the little girl he had once held in his arms on that unforgettable December morning.
“This is truly an outstanding demonstration of the humanitarian side of our job. An officer’s ability to maintain a level of composure, and act quickly to perform emergency medical action saved a life,” said Anne Maricich, CBP Acting Director of Field Operations in San Diego. “Officer J. Lott demonstrates not only to the community, but to fellow employees, that CBP is a world class law enforcement agency. I appreciate our continued partnership with our friends at the U.S. Consulate in Tijuana, as this reunion would not have happened without their support.”
“The U.S. Consulate in Tijuana is grateful for the humanitarian and life-saving work of our CBP colleagues at the border,” said Kim Scrivner, Public Affairs Officer. “The Garcia family approached us after several years of trying to locate the officer that helped deliver their baby and save her life. After realizing they had the wrong name from that stressful encounter, we were able to connect the family and officer virtually, and with CBP, help arrange their reuniting.”
The room was quiet, absent was the usual small talk a typical crowd generates. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room, as a healthy, joyful Alexa Garcia bounded in through the door with a huge smile. She walked directly to Lott and gave him a tight hug reminiscent of the strength she had shown the first time they met.
Accompanying Alexa were her mom, dad, sister, and older brother. The families took time to share stories and their versions of that memorable day.
Alexa’s dad cheerfully described Lott resembling an astronaut with all his gear and the oversized medical bag strapped over his shoulders, as he approached the vehicle that day. Upon hearing her father’s description, Alexa pulled out a brown package tied with a bow and her confident stride turned bashful as she reached Lott and placed the gift in his hands. Standing close, she watched intently as he opened the present, carefully taking the frame out of the gift’s packaging.
Lott choked up as he realized the gift was a photograph of baby Alexa in his arms on the day she was delivered. Alexa’s eyes darted nervously with concern to her mom and dad but soon softened in relief as she saw both parents watching him, smiling warmly and filled with gratitude.
Lott then cleared his throat and reached for a large gift bag that was positioned on the floor. He handed the bag to an excited Alexa. She aggressively removed the tissue and found a special stuffed teddy bear complete with its own CBP uniform. She lit up with a smile, clutched her new bear, and thanked Lott with another heartwarming hug.
As the reunion came near a close, someone from the crowd asked Alexa’s dad if he could express the emotion that he was currently feeling. With a smile, he looked up and said, “I believe God put an angel in our hands that day, that angel saved my wife and baby’s life.”