'Moment in time' saves the life of a young reader

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Angelina Leon, 28, of Atlantic City and library assistant Kathy Tabasso, 57, of Margate hold 17-month-old Naomi at the Ventnor Library on Feb. 22. Tabasso provided lifesaving CPR to revive the child just weeks earlier. Angelina Leon, 28, of Atlantic City and library assistant Kathy Tabasso, 57, of Margate hold 17-month-old Naomi at the Ventnor Library on Feb. 22. Tabasso provided lifesaving CPR to revive the child just weeks earlier.

VENTNOR – One brief moment in time meant life, supreme joy and profound gratitude for three local residents one Saturday afternoon in February.

“I feel small. This is all part of a larger story,” said senior library assistant Kathy Tabasso, 57, of Margate.

She doesn’t know why she was there at that moment, but she knows she was used to “rise up when the need was great,” she said.

Their weekly visit to the Atlantic County Library System/Ventnor branch turned nearly tragic on Feb. 8 when Angelina Leon, 28, of Atlantic City, a Mexican immigrant, noticed her 17-month-old daughter Naomi was not breathing. She picked up the lifeless child and ran screaming for help to the front desk of the library.

That’s when Tabasso sprang into action using skills she hoped she would never have to use.

“I felt God’s hands on me and felt his presence and strength,” Tabasso said.

Just two years ago, when she worked at the library’s Longport branch, she took a free CPR class for borough employees and received her certification. The wife of Margate’s fire chief, and the mother of a firefighter and emergency medical technician, said she was anxious to become certified.

“I work with the public, so I wanted to take the class in case something like this ever happened,” she said as she held the fidgety baby on her lap.

Leon visits the library for a few hours every Saturday afternoon as she waits for her niece to finish her dance class next door at the Ventnor Cultural Arts Center. Naomi reads hard-paged books, colors and plays with toys, while her mother watches her and her cousin use the computers in the children’s section of the busy library.

“It was noon when a Hispanic woman carried her lifeless young child to the desk crying, ‘My baby, my baby’ in English,” Tabasso said. “My partner Olga Matus immediately called 911 and I took the baby from the woman into my arms. I thought she had choked on something. I couldn’t tell what was wrong, so I smacked her on the back.”

Although she couldn’t speak English, Leon communicated that choking wasn’t the issue. Naomi was actually suffering a convulsion from a fever due to an infection.

“I whispered a prayer and asked for strength and intervention knowing it was a desperate situation,” Tabasso said.

Naomi had turned blue so Tabasso checked her neck and found a pulse, although she was not breathing.

“I puffed into her mouth and saw all of my grandchildren’s faces in her face, yet nothing happened. So I did two more puffs, and then she responded with a puff of air back. Her face pinked up, but she was still unconscious,” Tabasso said.

It took what seemed to be an eternity for the child to start breathing on her own.

All the while she was doing CPR on the floor behind the circulation desk, an unidentified physician coached her that she was doing it right. Soon the Ventnor Fire Department and EMTs arrived to stabilize Naomi, administer oxygen and transport her to the hospital, Tabasso said.

That’s when the librarian turned to comfort Leon, telling her Naomi would be well taken care of.

“I didn’t want her traumatized. She was so upset, so I sat with her to calm her down, explaining that the baby would be OK. I didn’t want that situation imprinted in her mind in a negative way,” she said.

Tabasso said she is grateful for a positive outcome, and so is Leon.

“I am grateful to the senorita who helped me with my daughter,” Leon wrote, and Tabasso translated on a library computer using Google. “She was very friendly with my daughter and gave her air to the mouth.”

On Saturday, Feb. 22, Leon chased after Naomi as she toddled through the bookcase aisles.

Tabasso, who attends Cornerstone Community Church in Ocean City, said what happened that fateful day was part of a greater story that incorporated moments in time, experiences gathered over the years, international travel and cosmic, spiritual energy.

As she held Naomi in her arms, Tabasso said, “When I see her, I feel supreme joy. This is part of a larger story. I was used to rise up, never expecting to save a life. The library is more than just books.”

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