Experiencing the spectrum of emotion: Infant saved after father guided through CPR by Cal Fire officer, months of hospital care | TheUnion.com

Experiencing the spectrum of emotion: Infant saved after father guided through CPR by Cal Fire officer, months of hospital care

Sam Corey
Staff Writer
CalFire dispatcher Chris Africa, right, holds Wren Flynn, the baby he helped save months ago.
Submitted photo by Cal Fire

The early morning of May 13 became a nightmare for one family.

Lake of the Pines resident John Flynn found his infant daughter, Wren, not breathing.

He called 911 and spoke with Chris Africa, a Cal Fire dispatcher at the Grass Valley center.

Africa did what all dispatchers are trained to do, said Cal Fire Unit Chief Brian Estes. He managed the input of chaos and catastrophe and created an output of calm, guiding Flynn to perform CPR on his child before the ambulances arrived.

Monday, at a Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital press conference, Africa and Flynn were honored for their work, receiving the Heartsaver Hero award from the American Heart Association.

Today, Wren Flynn is doing fine — just as healthy as she was before she stopped breathing, and subsequently entered a month-long coma, according to her father.


After a long bout of CPR, Wren was driven to Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital where she was stabilized after four hours, and subsequently transferred to a Sacramento hospital for further treatment.

But her parents — John Flynn and Chandra Kepler — were not freed from worry. Wren was placed in the pediatric intensive care unit for weeks while her family members were told to brace for the worst.

“It was a month of sheer hell,” said Kepler.

As the month wore on, Flynn established a GoFundMe account, raising almost $4,000 – double the expectation – in hopes of avoiding late home payments. While Wren was receiving treatment, the couple stayed at a nearby Ronald McDonald House, praying for their daughter’s health, and trying to keep the lights on for their eventual return home.

When they were finally allowed to leave the hospital with a healthy baby in tow, Flynn reached out to the hospital and Cal Fire to pay gratitude to Africa, the dispatcher who enabled the family to reach the safe end of a turbulent journey.

Monday, Africa met the family — and Wren — for the first time, his eyes red from a steady stream of tears.

“This is very rewarding … and very emotional,” Africa said at the press conference. But, he said he was just doing his job, and that any other dispatcher who answered the phone at 7:30 a.m. May 13 would have done the same, and land in the same position as he was Monday.

“The next phone call, I just picked up” and kept working, Africa said of the May 13 work day, unknowing of what was to come of Wren’s future.

Flynn said he was changed in subtle ways after the near-death of his infant child. He now sports the blue and pink EEG wires once hooked to his daughter as a bracelet, and takes more time for prayer.

There was a clear lesson he said he derived from the experience: “Not to take (life) for granted.”

Contact Sam Corey at 530-477-4219 or at scorey@theunion.com.

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