Off-Duty Paramedic Saves Baby

September 23, 2019

Denver Health paramedic James Boyer, RMHC Dr. Sue Kirlik, Dr. Carolynn Francavilla Brown, Hadley Riggs, Sarah and Erik Riggs

Anyone who works in the medical profession knows you are never really "off duty," even when you are not working. Denver Health paramedic James Boyer demonstrated that during a recent trip to the Denver Zoo.

Boyer was enjoying a day out with his wife and two young boys – when Sarah and Erik Riggs had what could have been the worst day of their lives. The Riggs family took their 13-day-old daughter, Hadley, for her first trip to the zoo, when Sarah noticed Hadley turning blue and then stopped breathing.

That's when Boyer's instincts as a Denver Health paramedic kicked in, and he rushed over to the tiny child and started doing CPR. Riggs' family doctor Carolynn Francavilla Brown – who also happened to be at the zoo that day – joined in on the resuscitation effort until a Denver Health ambulance arrived to rush the little girl and her family to the emergency room.

Watch the Riggs family talk about how an off-duty Denver Health paramedic saved their infant daughter's life in this CBS Denver video.

The family later learned that Hadley had an extremely rare, congenital heart condition that doesn't show up until several days after birth. Doctors who took care of Hadley at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children at Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center said it was the CPR – started by Boyer and Dr. Brown – that saved the infant's life.

Boyer and the Riggs had a touching reunion on Sunday at the Children's Heart Foundation's Congenital Heart Walk – back where it all happened, at the Denver Zoo. The Denver Post was there for the reunion and as Boyer and Dr. Brown were honored for their life-saving actions (subscription may be required to read).

“They saved her life,” Sarah Riggs told the Denver Post, her voice breaking. “I’ve never been more grateful to anyone in my life than these two people.”

Denver Health Paramedics rarely get the chance to reunite with the patients they've saved, so it was a special day for both the family of the patient and for the paramedic and everyone else involved in saving the little girl's life.
L-r: Denver Health paramedic James Boyer; Dr. Carolynn Francavilla Brown; Sarah, Hadley, Erik and Cameron Riggs
L-r: Denver Health paramedic James Boyer; Dr. Carolynn Francavilla Brown; Sarah, Hadley, Erik and Cameron Riggs

Want to read about another paramedic and patient reunion? Read how 83-year-old Burton Litman was saved by the Denver Health Paramedics after going into cardiac arrest at Denver International Airport.

If you want to share your patient story at Denver Health, email Patient_Stories@dhha.org.