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Saving Baby Elise

Nov. 20, 2017

Photo of State Patrol Lt. Paul Stricker, Kristin and Elise Lonsbury, and Virginia Marsh.
Photo: Chance and kindness converged on the side of I-394 in September to save baby Elise’s life, and her mother (center) will always be grateful to the two heroes who made it happen.

“I pulled her out of her car seat, and her little arms just dropped to her sides.”

Kristin Lonsbury found herself in a waking nightmare on the side of I-394 on Sept. 14. She had pulled over because her daughter Elise, then six weeks old, had started making “guttural choking noises” – and then an ominous silence. Sure enough, Elise had choked and then lost consciousness.

Enter Virginia Marsh, a nurse who was on her way to work on the same stretch of road when she saw a woman “kneeling in the grass with an infant in one hand and a phone in the other. Something wasn’t right.”

Kristin, now on the phone with a 911 dispatcher and in a full-blown panic, “couldn’t grasp the concept that I should give her CPR.” So she simply handed Elise to Virginia, who began delivering back blows. She found a pulse and got Elise to open her eyes and breathe once or twice, but she knew they weren’t out of the woods yet.

That’s when Lt. Paul Stricker came along. Stricker, a trooper with the Minnesota State Patrol, probably wouldn’t have been in that place at that time if he hadn’t been placed on light duty due to a back injury he sustained while saving someone from jumping off a bridge in a suicide attempt. Stricker is no stranger to emergencies, he says, but “when kids are involved, it gets you right in the heart.”

So when he saw Virginia delivering back blows to Elise, he knew the baby was choking. He pulled over and took Kristin’s phone, talking to the 911 dispatcher and coordinating with the EMS crew once the ambulance arrived. They got Elise to the hospital, where she made a full recovery. Her mom says she has no long-term effects from the incident.

Elise, now 14 weeks old, laughed for the first time this week, and Kristin immediately thought of Virginia and Lt. Stricker. She reckons she’ll think of those two heroes with every milestone Elise achieves. In fact, Kristin and her husband have legally changed Elise’s middle name to Virginia.

But Virginia is determined that Kristin have some of the credit, too: “She was a typical mom with eyes in the back of her head. She showed really good maternal instincts and actions.” After all, if Kristin hadn’t pulled over in the first place, this story might not have had a happy ending.

But it did, as Virginia whispered to Kristin as she hugged her before they parted ways that day: “It wasn’t her time yet.” Virginia Marsh and Lt. Paul Stricker made sure of it.