Woman surrenders baby at Nampa dentist office

kmoeller@idahostatesman.comMay 14, 2014 

The staff of a Nampa dental office weren't familiar with Idaho's Safe Haven Act — which allows new mothers to anonymously surrender babies at certain locations with no questions asked — but in late April they gracefully took in a newborn and quickly delivered it to a local hospital.

A young woman with a baby entered the office of Dr. Tristan Galloway at about 9:30 a.m. April 21. It was Diane Scheirbon's first full day as general manager of the dental office.

Scheirbon said Wednesday that she was busy working on the computer when the woman walked in. There were no patients in the lobby at the time, and Galloway was in the back performing a root canal on a patient.

"She said she was aware it was a Safe Haven clinic, and she needed to leave the baby," said Scheirbon, who estimated the woman was 17 to 20 years old. "I was trying to process what she was saying to me. I said, 'Are you saying you need to leave your baby here?'"

"She said, 'Yes, I can't care for it,'" Scheirbon recalled. She said she'd given birth about five hours earlier, with the aid of a doula.

The Idaho Safe Haven Act went into effect July 1, 2001. Designated safe havens include: emergency medical personnel, licensed physicians and staff, advanced professional nurses, physician assistants and hospitals. The law covers surrenders within the first 30 days after a child is born.

Since 2001, 25 babies have been surrendered around the state of Idaho, according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. The babies are placed with a licensed foster families who have expressed interest in adoption. There is a 30-day wait period before the parental rights are terminated in court.

"I was not aware of the law. I had no idea," Scheirbon said. "I was new. That was my first day with patients."'

But she wanted to help. She quickly told Galloway — in the middle of the root canal procedure — that she had an emergency and needed his help.

Galloway was also unaware of the law, but he, too, wanted to help. Not wanting to scare off the young mother, he stayed at a distance and listened to Scheirbon's interaction with her.

"My patient was gracious enough to let us finish up at a different time," Galloway said. "The patient did assist in putting a new blanket around the baby."

Scheirbon took the baby into her arms. She said the baby girl was small — later she heard it was just 4 pounds, 11 ounces — and did not cry at all. The woman told her the baby had not yet been fed.

Meanwhile, another staff member went to get diapers. And Galloway called his mother and sister to come help.

"My mom is retired and doesn't live too far away. I said, 'Can you swing on by? We got a little bit of a curve ball,'" Galloway recalled.

The trio took the baby to Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Nampa. They recounted the story to Nampa police at the hospital.

The staff at Galloway's clinic were touched by the whole experience.

"In my opinion, she did a very amazing thing. It was very selfless. We don't know what the mother was going through. Had to be extremely hard in some sort of facet in her life," Galloway said.

Before the woman left the office, they asked her if they could help her in any way.

"She said, 'I just want to go to bed and go to sleep,'" Scheirbon said. "Then she walked out."

Katy Moeller: 377-6413

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