Charmaine Keevy doesn’t usually take early morning walks, but at about a quarter past seven on Tuesday morning, she felt a sudden urge to take her rescue dog, George, out. She put him on his leash and set out for a quick stroll around their neighborhood in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
For some reason, Charmaine decided to take a slightly different route than usual. As they made their way past a nearby storm drain, George got agitated and began to bark. Charmaine then heard a crying noise coming from inside the drain.
“When we passed the drain, Georgie started barking,” Charmaine recalled. “I first thought it was a cat because he is scared of cats.”
The crying stopped for a moment and then started up again, and that’s when it hit Charmaine. It wasn’t a cat – it was a baby!
Charmaine couldn’t get the storm drain open by herself so she ran to the road and tried to flag someone down to help. Many people passed by, but finally one man stopped and helped her lift the cover off the drain.
“People must have thought I was mad because I tried stopping everyone until finally a man from Vertical Blinds helped me [lift the covers of the] drain,” she said. “I don’t know what I would have done had he not stopped to help.”
When they opened the cover, their hearts dropped. A tiny baby girl was lying at the bottom of the duct, her umbilical cord still attached and a coating of vernix – a white substance covering the skin of a baby at birth – still covering her little body.
It was clear someone had dumped the baby down the duct. Miraculously, she had survived, but Charmaine knew she wouldn’t last much longer. She wrapped the baby in her sweater and called for an ambulance.
“It was overwhelming to see how compassionate these men were – to help this baby and hold her in their arms,” Charmaine said of the paramedics.
“I honestly believe I was meant to find that baby,” she continued, “especially because I usually take a different route on our walks. There is obviously a plan and purpose for that little girl’s life.”
Police believe the baby was just three hours old when Charmaine found her and that she had been in the storm drain for about an hour.
It is hard to imagine how a mother could abandon her baby in such a horrific way, but Charmaine showed a surprising amount of grace and compassion toward the woman, whoever she may be.
“[W]hen I got home I just said a prayer for that baby’s mother because we can’t just assume that she didn’t want her baby,” she said. “It must have been difficult for her to leave her baby there, but I am very honored to have found the baby and helped.”
Adding to the beauty of this rescue story, George is also a rescue. Charmaine found him in a cart outside a shopping center last year.
The dog’s owners had left him in the cart and told the security guard they would return to get him, but they never did.
“I took the dog home with me and left my number with the security guard, but no one ever called,” Charmaine said. “So we kept him. He is the naughtiest little dog with the most amazing personality and we love him to bits.”
She knows she was meant to rescue George so he could help rescue this baby.
“I think this dog who was abandoned himself had a purpose and he found this little girl,” she said. “I just get so overwhelmed when I think about how it all fell into place.”
The baby was taken to Dora Nginza Hospital in Port Elizabeth. Police are investigating a case of concealment of birth and child abandonment and the baby will remain at the hospital throughout the investigation, after which she will be taken to a place of safety.
Sadly, this little girl’s story isn’t an isolated one. Four cases of abandoned children have been reported at Dora Nginza Hospital just this year.
Social worker Pamela Rubushe said they try to encourage mothers to come to them if they need help, but sadly, many don’t.
“It is very wrong for people to do this,” she said. “We always tell our patients to come to us for help because this type of thing needs to be avoided at all costs.”
The heartbreaking reality is that many babies are being left to die, but there are also many organizations working to make sure that doesn’t continue.
The Helderberg Baby Saver at Choices Crisis Pregnancy Centre in Somerset West has been set up as a safe place to leave an unwanted baby, rather than dumping it in a bin or a river.
Acres of Love, which has been active in South Africa for over 20 years, rescues and cares for orphaned and abused children, providing them with the basic necessities and care as well as giving them dignity, love, a home, and a family.
As for Charmaine, she says rescuing this baby has opened her eyes to the love and care God has for each one of us.
“It was quite an overwhelming thing, just thinking of how God loves us and how he finds us,” she said, tearing up. “The emotional thing was for me to find this baby and to know that God has got a plan and a purpose for this baby’s life.”
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