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6 year-old girl visits firefighters, medics
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Emily Hum laughs with firefighter Austin Rioux as she gets to shoot water from a fire line connected to an engine at Station 2 on Union Road. - photo by GLENN KAHL

Six-year-old Emily Hum dropped by Manteca’s Union Road fire station Wednesday to meet some special guys — firefighters and medics who saved her life.

The youngster melted the hearts of the three firefighters and three Manteca Ambulance medics who met her outside the front door of the station at 2 p.m. No one had expected her to survive after finding her unconscious on May 6 after an apparent seizure in her home in the 800 block of Pantera Avenue. Family members confirmed she had quit breathing twice.

Grandparents June and Phil Hum called 911. Firefighters arrived at the home within two minutes. The ambulance arrived shortly thereafter finding the drama unfolding that had been caused by the youngster eating a macadamia cookie. It was later determined that the girl is allergic to all kinds of nuts, according to her mother Sabrina Hum who was nine months pregnant and about to deliver a baby boy the day of the incident.

The ambulance crew of Katie VanderWal and Christopher Aceves drove through Manteca’s downtown with red lights and siren as they transported the youngster to the Manteca hospital emergency room on the other side of the city. Ambulance supervisor Jon Mendoza said he was following close behind the ambulance in his unit when he saw the two firefighters’ yellow turnout coats literally bouncing up and down through the back windows of the rig. The child’s heart had stopped as they crossed the Yosemite and Main intersection and they were performing CPR in a team effort with the paramedic. 

Another grandmother at the fire station Wednesday, Marilyn Bean, voiced her pleasure with the first responders saying, “We can’t say enough wonderful things about this fire department and ambulance crew.”

Doctors and the medical staff at Doctors Hospital worked on the girl at length before sending her by ambulance to the Stockton Airport where a REACH helicopter airlifted her to Oakland Children’s Hospital where she was finally stabilized. 

According to family members Emily spent the next week and a half lying in a coma. She spent a month in the hospital. The soon-to-be first grader later expressed her wish to become a nurse someday.

Firefighter Tony Taberna and Captain Kevin Terpstra did their best to make Emily feel comfortable when she arrived at the fire station. 

Taberna literally took her under his wing and walked her around the fire station and even lifted her into the driver’s seat of Engine 243. He saw to it that she was fitted into an oversized fireman’s turnout coat and placed an earphone headset on her head as she sat behind the wheel in the engine’s cab. 

Her shyness turned to an almost constant smile and the little girl clearly bonded with Taberna. Smiles and thick throats were pretty much the order of the day for other responders as they followed the little girl around the station realizing all too clearly what could have been a different outcome. 

Emily and her mom were then seated in the back of the engine cab – both with a headset – and Taberna took them for a ride around the block in the fire engine. When he came back into the side driveway leading to the rear of the station, he activated the siren in a move that the little girl will probably never forget. She will have plenty to talk about in her class “show and tell” next month.

Parked behind the station, firefighters again put a turnout coat on Emily – and as they had promised – pulled a two-inch-line from a fire truck to give her the thrill of shooting water into their parking lot as she almost doused a Bulletin photographer in the process.

Fire Chief Kirk Waters credited fire crews for being on the scene within a couple of minutes which is said is “so critical” for medical emergencies. 

“It was great teamwork between the firefighters and the Manteca District Ambulance – MDA does a great job,” the fire chief said.

Emily will always wear a medical alert bracelet to safeguard her in the future – her family said they will be sure of it.

Chief Waters quoted the Mayo Clinic’s recommendations to safeguard children from suffering allergic reactions:

• Be sure to read food labels carefully and avoid foods that may have come in contact with peanuts. Manufactured foods are required to clearly state whether foods contain any nuts and if they were produced in factories that also process peanuts. 

• Use peanut butter substitutes that allow for safe enjoyment of popular foods.

• If you’ve already head a severe reaction to peanuts or other types of nuts, wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace.

• Talk with your doctor about emergency medications.

The fire chief added that it is important to teach your child to ask for help and make certain that they know how to tell others about their nut allergy and ask for immediate help if they believe they might be having an allergic reaction. Discourage your youngster from sharing food with others who might have a nut additive in the ingredients.