Mom Escaping Wildfire Tells Stranger To Take Her Baby -- And Leave Her Behind

by Julie Scagell
Originally Published: 
Image via YouTube/CNN

The new mom and stranger drove around for 9 hours trying to escape the flames

We’ve seen some heartbreaking stories coming out of the wildfires in California (now named the Camp Fire) — from total neighborhoods being burned to the ground to entire communities coming together to help save animals left behind — the destruction, not to mention the loss of life, is incomprehensible. But one new mom’s story shines a bright light on what has been a devastating time.

Rachelle Sanders had just given birth to her third child at Feather River Hospital in Paradise, CA, a son weighing in at 6 pounds, 5 ounces. Soon after, nurses rushed into her room to tell her they had to evacuate. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, a nurse and three other staff members ran into the 35-year-old mother’s room — just 12 hours after she gave birth — to tell her they’d need to leave immediately.

“I thought I wasn’t going to make it for sure,” Sanders told CNN. “I wasn’t sure any of us were going to make it. It was very, very terrifying.”

She says, “It was looking very grim … we were really unsure that we would be able to get out of there.” With an IV still attached from her C-section and unable to drive because of the surgery, she was put in a hospital employee’s car. David was a stranger but quickly became her newborn’s lifeline.

They attempted to flee, but the flames were everywhere, including in the middle of the road, which melted his sedan’s plastic taillights. People were abandoning their cars to flee the scene. Sanders, who was unable to run, was concerned the fire may take over the car, and asked David if it came down to it, to save her child. “I want you to take the baby and run,” she said. “Leave me behind.”

Fortunately, Sanders and David were able to make it safely out of the fire. After going in circles for hours, they ended up back at the same hospital they started, which had miraculously survived. The journey took them nine hours with all the rerouting and chaos of the day. Sanders said during the journey they passed what was left of her family home, just a smoking chimney.

Sanders was eventually sent to another hospital, where she was reunited with her husband and two children. With all that was lost, Sanders understands this week especially, what she has to be grateful for, as things could have turned out so much worse. “Never have I had a Thanksgiving come where I have had so little and felt more thankful and blessed,” she said.

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