Five-week-old Sergio DeVincent had stopped breathing and his face was turning blue. Sergio's distressed parents, who were shopping for a stroller at Buy Buy Baby, called out desperately for help, seeking anyone who knew CPR.
Katherine Falco of Elmont, a registered nurse and part-time sales associate at the Garden City store, responded, placing the child on the floor and performing life saving "rescue breathing" on the infant, likely saving Sergio's young life.
On Friday, Falco, a retired pediatric and OB-GYN delivery nurse at South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside, was honored by Town of Hempstead officials and state lawmakers for her heroism.
"It happened so fast," Falco said at a news conference at the store. "It was like a moment of time. To be there at the right time at the right place. God puts you there for certain reasons in life and I truly believe that."
Hempstead Receiver of Taxes Donald Clavin, who awarded Falco the town's first "Hometown Hero" award, said her actions were inspirational.
"What makes a person a hero is somebody who does the extraordinary, who steps up when you need it the most," Clavin said. "The story surrounding Kathy Falco and what she has done and how she rose to the occasion and became a hero would inspire anybody."
State Sen. Elaine Phillips (R-Flower Hill) also presented Falco with the Liberty Medal, the highest honor given by the Senate.
On Sept. 6, Alexandria and Joseph DeVincent were shopping when their son Sergio — who was born with a hole in the wall of his heart that interferes with his blood and oxygen flow — started to cry and cough. When his face turned blue, Alexandria DeVincent began to panic.
"I thought he was going to die," she said.
Twenty minutes into her shift, Falco, who works only one day a week at the store, ran to the child and took over while Joseph DeVincent called 911.
With a 911 operator on speakerphone providing guidance, Falco gently tilted Sergio's head back and began breathing into the infant's mouth and nose while intermittently performing chest compressions, Alexandria DeVincent said.
"Within seconds he started crying and I said 'thank God he's coming back,' " Falco said. "He continued to cry harder and harder. I said 'Sergio, get mad at me. I want you to get mad at me so you are crying and fill up those lungs.' "
Jim Mahoney, the store manager, said he could hardly believe what he was seeing.
"I watched over with my eyes welling up cause I couldn't believe she was saving this life on the floor right there in my store," Mahoney said. "And everybody watching couldn't believe it either."
EMTs quickly arrived and took Sergio to a nearby hospital. He is now in the pediatric intensive care unit at Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park, DeVincent said, and will need open heart surgery in about six weeks to correct the defect.
DeVincent said she is forever thankful that Falco's quick actions saved her son's life.
"I am so grateful to her and grateful she was there," DeVincent said. "She just knew what to do."