It was a terrible night on call and promised to be at least as bad a morning. We had run three "codes," protocols to try to resuscitate patients in cardiac arrest. None had been successful. I was up much of the night with a patient who was hallucinating and threatening. I got home later than expected and Bob had to get back to the office. The house wasn't air conditioned and at 10:30 AM it was already north of ninety degrees.
Time for the baby and me to go to the mall. I knew it would be cooler there.
Michael played happily in his child safety seat while I drove, already thinking of an ice cream
cone for each of us and a leisurely inside walk for window shopping. I could feel my shoulders relax just a little at the prospect.
When I got to the huge shopping center the parking lot was already quite full. A lot of people must have had the same idea, I thought as I found a space in the back row. It bothered me a little that when I came back out I'd probably be over-heated again by the time I reached the car, but there was nothing I could do about it.
Handed the keys to my son.
I parked, took Michael out of his car seat, and set him on the floor with my keys to play with.
Next I got out my purse, his stroller, a diaper bag and anything else that seemed necessary for a walk in the mall with a baby. Why did it always feel like going on safari to take one small human on a one hour trip?
With all my equipment on the pavement I clicked the car door shut, then turned around to pick up my child.
And realized the car was locked. With my baby and the keys inside. In the 90 plus degree heat.
Not panicking yet, I tried one door after another, just to be sure. Of course, each was locked.
There was no one else in the parking lot so I tore off to the nearest entrance, a football field away. Throwing the door open, I rushed to the first open shop I saw, an Orange Julius. A teenager with the brand's uniform and cap was leaning against the counter.
"Quick!" I yelled. "I've locked my baby in the car. I need help getting him out."
Break into the car
A man I took to be the manager stepped out from a back room and nodded. "You," he said to the teen, "call the fire department and tell them we've got a kid locked in a car." He then reached down behind the counter and extracted a long, flat piece of metal with a hook on the end. To me, "Let's go see if we can get him out."
I sprinted back to the car, waving to show the man where I was. Michael was still pretty happy with things. He had dropped the keys on the floor and was further exploring his environment. Studiously, he pushed one button on the console, then another.
The manager-guy arrived. He carefully placed the metal piece next to the front window and slid it down into the door. This he swept back and forth then up and down several times, while I held my breath. He frowned, withdrawing his tool. "Most cars you can unlock just by pulling up with this hook. Toyotas are different. This isn't going to work."
A small crowd was forming. A siren was blasting in the distance while the manager guy tried each window in turn. I noticed paint chips along the window on a couple of the doors.
Who would treat a child like that?
A fire truck, red lights flashing and siren blaring, came careening through the parking lot to where the crowd was gathered.
A woman approaching from my left spoke up. "What's wrong with that car? Why is everybody looking at that car?" Then, following everyone's gaze, "It's a baby! There's a baby in that car. What kind of person would leave a baby in a car in weather like this?"
I leaned against the bumper, closing my eyes for a moment. Opening them, I said to no one in particular, "I'm a doctor. Get him out and I'll take care of him."
A fireman in full fire-fighting regalia exited the truck. In his hand was an implement identical to the one the Orange Julius guy had tried. He too attempted to unlock each door and he too was unsuccessful. The chipped paint was more noticeable.
By now Michael's attention had been drawn to the people outside. He had managed to get his diaper off and I could see some rather suspicious looking dark spots on the carpet. He raised his little arms to me in the international "Up" sign. When all I did was wave back he began to get upset. His face was pink and his lips were quivering.
I knew the temperature in the car could rise rapidly. I looked at the fireman who was trying each window again. "He's starting to get hot. Please just break the window or I will." Warm to hot to seizures could take only minutes.
"Tap on the window and keep his attention," came the response. "I need him out of the way of the glass."
I shuddered at the thought of a shower of shards. With luck they would all stay in the backseat, though, and Michael was in the front.
Free at last
Swinging an axe like I'd seen in the movies, the fireman smashed the back window, reached in and unlocked the driver's door. This he opened and hit the button, releasing all the locks. To the applause of the audience, I opened the passenger side door and picked up my child.
Somehow I just didn't feel like going into the mall anymore and just went home.
I was finally starting to relax when my husband returned home hours later. I seriously considered homicide when the first thing he said as he entered the house was, "What happened to the window? Did you lock the baby in the car?"
Image of teddy bear by: Zenstock
Image of hand with keys by: Voyageric
Image of firetrucks by: robwilson39