06/17/13 — Teen saves little girl

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Teen saves little girl

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on June 17, 2013 1:46 PM

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Morgan Rigsby, 18, left, plays with 11-month-old Ivey, center, as Ivey's mom, Esther Nagypal, looks on. Recently, Ms. Rigsby performed CPR on the child while babysitting during a family vacation. She had just completed a CPR course as a requirement to graduate high school.

Morgan Rigsby has been a baby-sitter for years, so when she signed up for a CPR class -- a mandatory requirement before graduating from Wayne Country Day School -- she had a special interest.

"I wanted to make sure I practiced on babies," the 18-year-old said.

The training paid off, during a recent vacation trip to baby-sit for two families -- for four children under age 4 -- when she was called upon to use CPR to save the life of an 11-month-old.

Morgan first met Brandi and Bret Strickland of Walnut Creek a few years ago. Clients of her mom, Kirby Rigsby, a veterinarian at Animal Hospital of Lenoir County in LaGrange, she became the regular baby-sitter for their two children, now 3 years old and 6 months old.

This spring, when the Stricklands decided to vacation in Aruba with another couple, the Nagypals, Morgan was invited to go along and to care for all the kids, including the Nagypals' son, 2, and their daughter, 11-month-old Ivey.

The vacation went smoothly. In fact, Esther Nagypal said, she marveled at how well Morgan handled the responsibility.

It was on the trip home, however, that the real test came.

The travelers had a stopover in Fort Lauderdale to go through customs and were awaiting the boarding call.

"I got a bag of chips, plantains, banana chips," Mrs. Nagypal said.

When the pilot of the private plane emerged to summon everyone to board, she said she scooped up her youngest child and prepared to leave.

"I was one of the last ones, getting my luggage," she recalls. "I looked over and noticed (Ivey) was choking."

Initially, she remained calm, she said.

"I did, like, the finger sweep," she said, demonstrating how she felt around for any sign of food in her baby's mouth. "It usually works brilliantly."

When she found nothing, panic began to set in.

"I turned her over and tried to clear the airway," she said. "She started choking again and coughing. Then I completely panicked, thinking I had shoved something down her larynx.

"I kind of went out of my mind. I just started screaming, 'Please get help!' You can take every course in the world and it says, 'Don't panic' but when it's your child, all that goes out the window."

"All of a sudden I was holding her," Morgan said.

It was a natural progression, Mrs. Nagypal said.

"I remembered how Morgan knew CPR," she said. "When your child is in trouble, you believe you're the one that caused it, I thought that I had made the situation worse. You want to stay in control, you want to fix it, and this is all happening in a second.

"When Brandi screamed, 'Give her to Morgan,' when your child's choking you've got seconds."

She admitted she was relieved that the baby-sitter was equipped to handle the situation.

"I think I probably just threw her at you," she told Morgan. "You started methodically going through the motions. You gained complete control."

Morgan said she simply did what she'd been trained to do in class.

"I just remember all of a sudden I was holding her," she said. "I did heart compressions, slapped her back.

"I remember when we took the course, we were all sitting down. At the time (this) happened, there was no place to sit down."

It's definitely different being in a classroom setting and going through an actual emergency, she said.

"The thing that's surprising, when you're practicing, babies seem so heavy, but she (Ivey) was so light," Morgan said. "I think I did it about three or four times.

"The other thing, when I took the course, I thought it would be on someone I didn't know. You think about how you'll see someone, like in a restaurant or somewhere, and they're choking. I think it's different when you're close to them."

Morgan says she had wanted to learn CPR for a long time. Now the recent graduate of WCDS is glad she did.

In the fall, she will be attending William Peace University, enrolled in the pre-veterinary program.

But in the meantime, she'll continue to be a reliable baby-sitter.

"(The Stricklands) told us, 'We'll give you her number but don't be calling her when we're going out together,'" Mrs. Nagypal said with a smile.

And while she's admittedly thankful that the trip ended on a high note and that Morgan was in place to ensure that, Mrs. Nagypal is also philosophical about the whole thing.

"You never know who you're going to meet. The way people are this day and time, there's a lot of egotistical people out there," she said. "It's such a lesson, because whether it's a stranger, and Morgan was a stranger, she was in a place to help me."