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Jardine: Infant lucky to escape pizza parlor outing alive

There's an entry in little Charlie Bawdon's baby book for "My Most Memorable Outing."

Someday, when he's a bit older and she's had more time to sort it all out, his mother will fill in the blank space that follows. Except that one measly line won't cut it.

It won't even come close.

There's no way Kaycee Bawdon could describe what happened in Modesto's Chuck E. Cheese's pizza parlor last weekend in, say, 25 words or less.

Just five days into his life, Charlie nearly didn't see a sixth. He stopped breathing. His little face turned yellow by jaundice, his tiny lips and the skin around his eyes became grayish-blue.

Yes, this is one of those happy-ending stories rife with circumstances, ironies and the stars aligning, leaving you to wonder, "What were the odds of all that coming together?"

Mandy Crocker, the woman who performed mouth-to-mouth to restore Charlie's breathing, credits divine intervention with keeping her at the restaurant long enough to save him.

"I was just God's vessel," said Crocker, director of case management at Doctors Medical Center, a registered nurse and a minister's wife. She offers a litany of supporting evidence.

Let's begin with the Bawdons, 24-year-old Army Spc. Steven Bawdon of Los Banos and his 23-year-old wife, Kaycee. He rushed home from Afghanistan hoping to witness the birth of Steven Charles Bawdon, the couple's second child.

Of course, Army travel being what it is, little Charlie, as they call him, arrived three days before Dad could get home.

Since Steven must return to Afghanistan by the middle of this month, family members wanted to get together, and they chose the Chuck E. Cheese's Pizza Time Theatre in Modesto as the meeting place.

The Bawdons arrived about 1:30 p.m. and were there for several hours. About 4:15 p.m., Kaycee went off to a corner to breast-feed Charlie, who was born with a cleft palate. Steven went to the men's room.

Crocker, meanwhile, came to the restaurant to drop off sons Keith and Kendall, who had been invited to parties there on consecutive days. She didn't plan on staying this time but suddenly felt compelled to.

"The spirit said not to leave," she said. "So I went and bought some (game) tokens. I was at the salad bar when I heard someone scream, 'Call 911!' "

She bolted for the corner where Kaycee's mom had taken the baby from her badly shaken daughter.

"I ran through crowds of people," Crocker said.

Keith, her 11-year-old, said she literally hurdled a table to get there.

That's when she saw the victim was an infant.

"He wasn't turning blue. He was blue, almost gray," Crocker said. "I've seen stillborns in the nursery. He had that look. I had a brief moment of 'oh, my God!' "

Then the nurse in her took over, even though she'd never worked as a maternity nurse before going into management. She took the baby from its grandmother and was ready to begin the mouth-to-mouth.

"But some gentleman ripped (Charlie) out of my hands and said, 'You're not doing this right,' and began giving compressions to the baby as if he were choking," Crocker said. "I said, 'No, no, no! Start with the breathing.' "

The gentleman turned out to be Kaycee's father, who recently took a CPR course for children, though not for infants.

Ultimately, he held Charlie so that Crocker could begin mouth-to-mouth. She gave him two small breaths at a time. After about seven or eight rounds, Charlie's eyes opened and he resumed breathing on his own.

The tough little guy didn't even cry, Crocker said. But his parents did, including his dad, who emerged from the restroom and saw the commotion.

Steven is assigned to a Chinook helicopter crew. He's trained to probe comrades for entry and exit chest wounds from bullets and shrapnel. But his son turning blue was well beyond his training grade.

"If it had been one of my buddies in the field, I would have known how to react," he said. "This ... I didn't know what to do."

Thus, the military hero needed a civilian hero to save his child, and the details of the moment simply blurred.

"The only thing I really do remember is when they carried him to the ambulance," Steven said. "I lost it, and for a good reason."

Little Charlie recovered so quickly that the paramedics wondered if anything had really happened. As they prepared him for the trip to the hospital, Crocker prayed with Kaycee and learned they both are members of the Church of the Nazarene.

"I just thank God that Mandy was there. I just thank God," Kaycee said.

When Crocker later called the DMC emergency room to check on Charlie, she was told it had been reported as "an alleged life-threatening event," she said.

"That's like saying it supposedly happened," Kaycee said. "There's no proof."

Tell that to all the people in the restaurant at the time, including the Bawdons and their extended family, Crocker and her sons and Chuck E. Cheese's employees.

Charlie spent a night in the hospital. Why did he stop breathing? Maybe a bit of spit up blocked his airway, Kaycee said.

He's fine, home in Los Banos and doing well.

When Pastor Dana Crocker got home that night, he found his wife busy working. Her computer flags her when it's time to update her training to maintain her registered nursing license. The flag that popped up first that night? It was for her basic life support renewal, which includes CPR and is due later this month.

No doubt, the computer-simulated lesson doesn't come close to what she experienced. Nor does the computer preach the spiritual lesson, she said.

"Always listen when God speaks," Crocker said. "I did, and that's why I stayed. I just didn't know the purpose at the time."

Grateful mother Kaycee Bawdon agreed and vowed, "I'll never get comfortable enough with this whole baby thing."

Someday she will. And eventually she'll go into little Charlie's baby book and attach a page or more to the blank space where it says "My Most Memorable Outing."

Who could blame her, though, if she scratched out "memorable" and replaced it with "unforgettable."

Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at 578-2383 or jjardine@modbee.com.

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