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Babies Saved 18 Years Ago Become Firefighters

Story by Ex- Capt. Steve Grogan

As two eighteen-year old boy twins received their badges as new volunteers in the Lynbrook Fire Department two weeks ago, two long-time firefighters stood in the back of the room with big smiles.  Those two firefighters, Ex-Captain PJ Curran, an EMT, of Truck Company, and Ex-Captain Joseph Rice, an AMT, of Engine Company, helped save the life of these boys eighteen-years ago when they were newborns. 

Back on July 13, 1998, Christine Bavaro and her husband Angelo, who reside on Catalpa Avenue in Lynbrook, were returning in their car from a doctor visit for their twin babies born on April 9, 1998, when three-month old Luke, who weighed just 2 lbs., 6 oz., at birth, was having difficulty breathing.  Also in the car was Luke’s twin brother Jake who had weighed only 3 lbs., 10 oz., at birth.  Suddenly, everything went wrong.  Luke had stopped breathing.   They immediately stopped the car which was at Sunrise Highway and Peninsula Blvd and the mother ran to a nearby home for help.  She told the homeowner to call for help because her “baby was not breathing.” 

The Lynbrook Fire Department was notified and firefighters pagers went off.   Ex-Captain Joseph Rice was working as a plumber only a block away from that intersection raced to the scene while Ex-Captain PJ Curran was driving on Sunrise Highway at the time.  Christina would tell the local newspapers back then that before she had gotten back to the car, the fire department sirens were sounding and the two firefighters appeared.     

Joseph Rice jumped into the backseat of their vehicle and immediately took hold of Luke who was not breathing.  In fact, he was already blue.  Rice immediately put the baby’s head back to open his airway while manipulating his jawbone.  He also stimulated his feet to get him to react and breathe.  After some anxious moments Luke finally took a breath, then a second, but his breathing was labored.  Meanwhile, PJ Curran took baby Jake and held him wrapping him in a blanket to keep him warm and also to watch his breathing as both babies, born premature, were using apnea monitors at home.

An apnea machine monitors the baby’s breathing while sleeping and sounds an alarm when the baby stops breathing.    

A Lynbrook police officer arrived first with oxygen followed by the Lynbrook Fire Department ambulance.  The firefighters and medical technicians on the ambulance continued to support Luke’s breathing with oxygen while in transport to Winthrop University Hospital.   Luke’s breathing began to improve.  Jake was also taken in the ambulance so he could also be monitored.  According to the Local News-Lynbrook USA newspaper back in 1989, “Doctors credited quick response by Lynbrook emergency medical technicians with saving an infant boy’s life.”

At the hospital, Luke was put into intensive care where he spent the next seven days.  Also, according to that 1989 newspaper, the doctor told the mother that if they hadn’t arrived at the hospital when they did the “situation might have been tragic.” Additionally, it was found that Jake also exhibited some of the same signs of a virus that had affected Luke but Jake was stronger and better able to fight it with an antibiotic.  Doctors believed it was a salmonella-type poisoning that caused the problem with both babies.

Two months after this incident and after the babies were back home on their apnea monitors the Lynbrook Fire Department’s Floodlight Unit responded to the Bavaro home when they lost power when a tornado struck Lynbrook in September 1998.  The monitors had no power.   The Floodlight Unit after first using its huge truck generator was able to hook up their power cords to a neighbor’s home who had electricity.  The babies were safe and both back on their monitors.

That same month the Bavaro family met with the fire chiefs, firefighters and medical technicians that came to their aid in July.  Christine Bavaro kissed them all and thanked them.   The Local News-Lynbrook USA newspaper said that the mother noted that the incident on Sunrise Highway with Luke was on Friday the 13 and said It was a bad day that turned into a good day.” 

Although both Luke and Jake are joining Truck Company where PJ Curran is a member, they never mentioned to anyone over the past few months since coming around that they were the babies helped by the firefighters in 1998.  It was by accident that the twins mentioned that they had wanted to join the fire department after being saved by the firefighters eighteen years ago.  It was then that everyone realized who these boys were. 

On August 16th, Luke and Jake received their badges and their turnout gear with Rice and Curran watching.  The new firefighters are considered probationary for the next year while they undergo required training and schooling at the Nassau County Fire Service Training Academy in Bethpage as well as local training here in Lynbrook.  They also begin attending Molloy College next month.

When these now young men were asked why they wanted to join the fire department, Jake said, “We wanted to give back to the community that helped us.  Being a firefighter makes us feel a part of this community and we want to do our part after we saw what the firefighters do for the community and did for us.”  Luke said, “They (firefighters) volunteered and they helped us survive so maybe one day we have to give back and help someone else.”  When Luke and Jake complete their year-long firefighter training and probationary period they said they would also “like to become EMT’s to help in even more ways.”

PJ Curran, a retired NYPD detective, said, “Finding out that these new firefighters were the babies we saved 18 years ago sends chills up my spine every time I think about it.  I’m glad they are joining the fire department to carry on a great tradition of helping the community.”  

Joe Rice said, “Although we were thanked back then I am most impressed by Christine Bavaro coming up to me last week and saying to me again, ‘Thank you for saving my son’s life.’  It meant so much to me.  It also makes me think what would have happened if I was not just a block away when that call came in.”  

Rice would tell Newsday in an August 30th story, “You see a limp body there that’s not breathing and then you see him take his first breath—it’s overwhelming”

Last Friday, the mom told Curran and Rice, “Keep them safe and don’t let anything happen to them.”  “We will,” PJ Curran answered.  “We are glad to have them and will take care of them like we did so many years ago.”

On August 19, 2016, a News 12 TV crew came to Truck Company's firehouse to meet Luke and Jake Bavaro, their mother, and Ex-Captains Joe Rice and PJ Curran.  A reporter and a photographer also came from Newsday as did a video cameraman from Newsday.   Later on that same day, News12 aired two different video programs throughout the afternoon and night.  Newsday on-line also posted a video program that same day and Newsday newspaper on August 20th made it their front page story.


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