Turnpike History

Miracle at Milepost 41

By Joe Agnello

On the afternoon of Monday, September 14, 1998, Turnpike Assistant Maintenance Foreman Guy Jeffrey of the Gibsonia maintenance facility made a startling discovery: a newborn baby laying naked on her back with her umbilical cord still attached. The newborn was laying on the berm of the westbound lanes in Hampton Township north of Pittsburgh at mile marker 40.1. "The closer I got, I knew it was a baby," said Jeffrey. "I got nervous. I said (to myself), ‘This can’t be real.’ It scared me. It’s still unbelievable that anyone could do this." As Jeffrey approached the child, Maintenance Foreman Bruce Brinkos stood on the other side of the median barrier that Jeffrey had scaled, calling for an ambulance on his cell phone. "At first, we didn’t know whether it was a live baby or a baby doll," he recalled.

Frank LoPresti of Transcore, the company that services the Turnpike’s mobile radios and microwave towers, also heard the call that someone spotted what might be a baby along the side of the road. "If someone hadn’t called about it I probably wouldn’t have realized it was an infant." Within seconds, LoPresti was joined at the scene by Donna Miller, a registered nurse who lives in Baden, Beaver County. Brinkos remained on the other side of the median, finishing his cell phone call. Miller, who works in the trauma at Allegheny General Hospital on Pittsburgh’s North Side, was returning home after visiting her grandmother in Harmarville with her four-year-old daughter and two-year-old son. She pulled over when she noticed Jeffrey waving his arms. "I followed my training - the ABC’s," said Miller, who explained that meant checking and clearing the Airway, making sure the baby was Breathing and that her Circulation was okay. "Her pink color was the signal that her circulation was good. I gave her a little pinch to make sure she was crying. That was a big thing, a good sign."

In a grotesque act of disregard for a human being who could not be more helpless and needy, someone apparently had tossed the baby away like litter. Doctors said her injuries - scrapes and bruises and a golf ball-sized lump on the back of her head - would be consistent with having been thrown or dragged from a moving vehicle. But this story has a happy ending. "We knew we had to get her out of that location because of the heat (88 degrees) and the traffic," said Brinkos. Miller gave Jeffrey a blanket and Jeffrey climbed into LoPresti’s truck carrying the child. They drove to the Gibsonia maintenance shed just down the road, where Hampton Township paramedics were waiting. Moments later, a medical helicopter landed and whisked the baby to Pittsburgh’s Children’s Hospital.

Incredibly, the baby was discharged on Thursday, Sept. 17 and released to Allegheny County Children, Youth & Families, which placed her with a couple who plan to adopt her. Doctors found no injuries that could cause permanent damage. "It’s a miracle she did not sustain major internal injuries to her brain or internal organs," said Dr. Henri Ford, director of the hospital’s Benedum Pediatric Center. "We’ve been deeply moved by the tremendous outpouring of affection and love for that little girl. It’s testimony to the fact that human kindness still prevails."

Karen L. Blumen, the child welfare agency’s spokesperson, said formal adoption is a decision that will have to be made by the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas. The couple with whom the baby has been placed were pre-approved for adoption. "We’re very pleased that the baby survived, is healthy and is in a very loving home," said Blumen. She also released the following statement by the prospective parents, dated September 25, 1998: "As the pre-adoptive parents of the baby girl found on the Turnpike, we would like to thank the people of Pittsburgh for their gifts, prayers, and their encouragement. We also want to recognize the doctors, nurses and support staff of Children’s Hospital for the loving care that they gave our daughter during her stay. We are very grateful to the wonderful workers from Three Rivers Adoption Council and the Department of Human Services’ Office of Children, Youth and Families for their kindness, professionalism, and for their caring. Finally, we would like to thank the media and our friends for allowing us to remain anonymous. This will help us to give as normal a life as possible to our very special little girl. Finally, we need to thank those that were involved in rescuing this little baby from an extremely dangerous situation.

“We’d like to give an update on her condition. Our daughter is healing her external wounds and she gets more beautiful every day. She eats, sleeps, eliminates and looks around like any other child her age. In fact, she is progressing so normally that we already find ourselves trying to forget her traumatic beginning. We are attempting to move beyond thoughts of her trauma, realizing that what happened to her was unthinkable but also knowing that some real good has come of this horrible event. "

"Although our daughter’s case was so dramatic, this is an excellent time for people to think about adopting the many available children who may have another type of abuse in their past, or who may be difficult to place for another reason. The many people who responded to our child’s plight show the depth of caring in this area, and this could help so many other children in need of loving parents. Our beautiful daughter belongs to a loving family, but she also belongs to everyone in the Pittsburgh area who cares about her. Her quick recovery is being helped by the kind thoughts and prayers of everyone who has heard about her, and for that we are very thankful."

State police are continuing to investigate the incident. "We’re hoping to have some closure on this as far as who’s responsible," said state police Cpl. John Tobin of the Findlay barracks, one of the lead investigators on the case.