ST.PETERSBURG TIMES(South Pinellas)

Firefighter develops kits for newborns left at station
By JANEL STEPHENS
St. Petersburg Times
published February 26, 2003

PINELLAS PARK -- Veteran firefighter Ken Vandermeir wants to make life a little easier for newborns left at fire stations under Florida's safe haven law.

He's developed a kit to comfort the infant during the transition from the fire station to the hospital. The Newborn Comfort Pac contains two receiving blankets, a bulb syringe, travel pack baby wipes, a changing pad, two diapers and a knit baby cap.

Vandermeir, 45, conceived the idea after a young man came to the fire station on 82nd Avenue N and left a baby boy in his arms.

"I remember it as if it happened last night," said Vandermeir, a 22-year veteran with the department and father of three.

It was Oct. 15, 2002. Vandermeir had just returned from a five-hour call. A young man in his early 20s tapped on the window. He asked whether the station was a safe place. Vandermeir said yes and the man handed the infant over to him.

"The baby was not crying and I remember his eyes were open and staring at me," Vandermeir said. He checked the baby's vital signs and wrapped him in a towel. After the incident, Vandermeir thought of items he wished he had when the baby was handed to him.

"The baby didn't cry, but what if he did? I didn't have a pacifier to give him," Vandermeir said. "The kit is made up of all the things I wished I had that night."

So Vandermeir, along with his wife, Lori, started their mail-order business, First Care Kits. The care packages are $42 each and are marketed to fire departments, ambulance services and other emergency services throughout the nation. The Vandermeirs said the kit paramedics when delivering babies.

The couple will donate four of the kits to the Pinellas Park Fire Department. One dollar from the sales will go to A Safe Haven For Newborns, a privately funded nonprofit organization whose mission is to save the lives of newborns in danger of abandonment through education and referrals.

"I applaud his efforts," said Pinellas Park fire Chief Ken Cramer. "I think the product that he's come up with is a product that will help. It's a handy kit that we can use when we know we're going to be handling this situation again."

Cramer also said the kits' inexpensive price tag falls below the threshold for many cities and will allow the Vandermeirs to avoid the bid process.

Cramer said this was the first baby left at a fire station in Pinellas County and possibly the 12th baby dropped off at a safe place under Florida's safe haven law, said Nick Silverio, creator of A Safe Haven For Newborns.

Under the law, a parent or relative can legally leave an unwanted baby up to three days old with personnel at a fire station, hospital or doctor's office with no questions asked. Once the child is taken to the hospital and receives medical treatment, it is placed for adoption.

For more information, go to the Web site at www.firstcarekits.com.