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Baby Dead After Being Found With Homeless Mother At Bus Stop
A baby was found dead last week in freezing temperatures with his homeless mother in a bus stop along Southeast Powell Boulevard in Portland.
At first, it was unclear whether he died of exposure hours after being born outdoors or whether he was stillborn.
Four other homeless people died of exposure in the first 10 days of 2017, in the area.
The circumstances of the baby’s death, unfortunately, illustrate that much of the tragedy on Portland’s streets involves mental illness which is untreated.
According to reports, officers from the Portland Police Bureau responded to an alarming scene at a TriMet bus stop. A woman, who appeared to be homeless and was pushing a shopping cart, had opened her coat to show a man that she held a newborn baby. The man observed this on his way to work.
The woman was apparently barefoot and only partly clothed so the man told her to cover the baby, before calling 911.The 911 operator sent details to officers who were on their way to help, via text message.
“Baby was born in a transient camp near Chuck E. Cheese,” the text message said. (There’s a Chuck E. Cheese at 9120 Southeast Powell Blvd.)
Officers learned that the birth had happened hours earlier, and the baby had remained outside in freezing weather. The texts they received indicated that the baby was alive.
“Baby is conscious and breathing okay, but has been outside this entire time,” read a second text from the 911 operator. “Baby is ice cold.”
The child was then rushed by an ambulance to Oregon Health & Science University hospital.
Officers then interviewed the baby’s 34-year-old mother at the hospital. Doctors worked to resuscitate the baby, while the woman told police a disjointed story.
She told them that she’d gotten pregnant “by the miracle of immaculate conception” and she was unable to answer basic questions about where she was from or where the baby was born.
“It was very clear to me she was very mentally ill,” Officer Justin Raphael wrote in his police report.
Doctors spent a 25-minute effort to save the child.
“Around this time, OHSU personnel notified me that they were going to cease life saving efforts on the newborn,” Raphael wrote. “The newborn was pronounced dead at 0641 hours.”
Police wanted to find out more about the circumstances of the baby’s birth and death. Police later learnt that the Oregon State Medical Examiner’s office said the baby—then still at OHSU—was, in fact, stillborn.
The two pediatric emergency room physicians who’d tried to save the child disputed that conclusion.
“Dr. Sheridan told me it appeared to him the child was born at about 32 weeks,” Harley wrote in his report. “Dr. Sheridan told me the child appeared to ‘be viable.'”
Police would investigate the case if the baby died of exposure or of other causes but if the child were stillborn, they would not. The state medical examiner, Dr. Karin Gunson, later disagreed with the OHSU doctors’ assessment of the baby’s condition.
“After an autopsy, we determined that the baby was stillborn,” Tom Chappelle, an investigator for the medical examiner’s office told WW Monday afternoon. “Dr. Gunson did the autopsy herself.”
With that decision, the case was closed.
“The medical examiner ultimately is the one who tells us,” he says, “whether the determination was ‘stillborn’ or ‘homicide.’” Said Portland Police Bureau spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson.