WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - A baby boy is alive thanks to the actions of a woman out walking her dog who heard the baby’s cries.
Cynthia Burton and her dog, Flounder, normally take a different route home, but took a shortcut behind Christ Community Church Thursday night to keep the dog off of the sizzling hot pavement.
As they made their way back home, Burton heard a noise coming from a blue trash bin. She looked inside and heard the cries grow louder. When she ripped open the black trash bag, she discovered a newborn.
The baby boy appeared to have just been born; he was covered in blood and he had the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck.
With the leash in one hand and the baby in the other, Burton yelled for help, but no one was at the church. She ran to the nearby apartment complex and flagged down a couple outside on their patio to call 911 and help the baby.
Burton was able to unwrap the umbilical cord from the child’s neck so he was able to breathe better. The group cradled the child and sang Jesus Loves Me to him while EMS workers sped to the scene.
While no one knows how long the baby was sealed in the garbage bag, the child survived.
A day later, Burton still is trying to wrap her mind around the tense moments.
“Last night, I didn’t sleep,” she said. “Every time I close my eyes, I felt that I was reopening the trash bag and seeing the baby. I knew he was alive when I found him and I knew that was a good thing. But I knew I didn’t have a lot a lot of time.”
Burton says she wishes she could have helped the mother. She acknowledges she doesn’t know the story of how the baby was brought into the world, but she hopes the child grows up to know he is loved and his life has worth.
“He’s special. He was loved from the very beginning that I got him in my arms and sang, you know, Jesus Loves Me, that he’s gonna live a wonderful life,” said Burton. “He’s very powerful and very strong because he cried out to live and if I had walked by, and not heard a sound I’d have kept on walking, but he cried, and he kept on crying, he cried until I went and got the bag and pulled him up and, when I opened the bag, he stopped crying. That’s when I think he knew he was safe,” said Burton.
Burton hopes that sharing the story will prevent tragedies like this from happening in the future.
North Carolina has a safe surrender law, allowing anyone who has a child to turn it over to a first responder, a social worker or a healthcare provider if they cannot care for the child within seven days, no questions asked.
Holly Royals, who is a project manager with Child Protective Services, said what makes North Carolina’s law unique is that a parent must leave a child with an adult - not outside of a building. She said that’s because of the heat we experience in the summer in North Carolina; lawmakers didn’t want newborns left out in the elements.
Royals said when a child is abandoned, Child Protective Services will work with law enforcement to investigate what happened. The agency will go to court to obtain legal custody of the child while social workers develop a safe and permanent plan for the child.
Back at the neighborhood where the child was found, Burton said a combination of situational awareness and divine intervention put her in the right place at the right time to save the little boy.
“I know God put me at that place at that time,” she said.