The Nichols family visited Station 572 to thank crewmembers who helped save the youngest member of the family. Submitted photos

A Maricopa family thanked a crew from the Maricopa Fire/Medical Department for heroics that saved an infant’s life.

The incident occurred in March, and the little girl has been recovering ever since. This week, Joshua and Katrina Nichols brought Ella, now 1 year old, to Fire Station 572 to meet the crew who worked so diligently to keep her alive.

Today, Ella officially will be adopted by the Nichols family.

Ella was born at 30 weeks, Katrina Nichols said, “after being exposed to illegal substances in utero. She required excessive resuscitation.”

Because of her rough start, she has chronic lung disease and cognitive delays and needed a tracheal tube and gastrostomy tube. At 2 months old, she finally left the hospital and moved into a foster home for “medically fragile” children.

Josh Nichols, a respiratory therapist, met Ella during his brief assignment at Phoenix Children’s Hospital during the winter. Already the father of four, including adopted and special needs kids, Josh fell in love with Ella.

The Nichols family was soon her foster family.

Ella has a pulse oximeter and apnea monitor to measure her vital signs as she remains fragile. March 20 just after midnight, both monitors alerted Katrina Nichols to the fact Ella wasn’t breathing.

“Needless to say, it was the scariest thing that has ever happened to me,” Katrina said.

A 911 dispatcher guided her through the technique of infant chest compressions. First responders arrived within five minutes and took over.

Firefighter/EMT Shayleen Parris, Captain/EMT Dan Ashton and engineer/paramedic Tom Reid with Ella. Submitted photo

Katrina described Ella going into full cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital and said the baby “was gone” for 16 minutes, “but they didn’t give up.”

“The doctors think that she had a mucous plug blocking her airway, which caused all of the resulting issues,” she said. “After her cardiac arrest, she went on to have seizures and ended up in a coma for a week.  It was very touch and go for a while, we didn’t know how things would turn out or what the extent of her new brain trauma would be. But by the grace of God, she had no new damage and we were able to bring her home 26 days later. It has taken some time, but she is getting back to herself again. She still has muscle tremors from time to time and may not get her vision back. But she is here.  She is a fighter. She is smiling.”

The Nichols family returned to Fire Station 572 to thank the crew that had a hand in keeping Ella alive. Three of the crew – Captain/EMT Dan Ashton, engineer/paramedic Tom Reid and firefighter/EMT Shayleen Parris – were at the station.

“They saved our daughter’s life and we couldn’t be more grateful,” Katrina said. “They remembered her instantly. She is hard to forget. We shook their hands, hugged them and thanked them face to face. It was emotional for all of us, I think.”

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