When abandoned “Baby Charlie” was found crying in the bottom of a truck on a chilly Florida morning in May 2017, he was cold, wet and alone. As a result, the newborn was raced to hospital, where 46-year-old respiratory specialist Lorraine Nichols was among those waiting to treat him. The infant’s pitiful state both broke the medic’s heart and fixed her purpose. There and then, Nichols resolved that she would do whatever she could to ensure that Charlie need not feel cold or alone ever again.
It was an especially cold morning on May 6, 2017, when a college student was walking past The Meridian, an apartment complex in west Tallahassee, FL. However, as she made her way through the student housing block’s parking lot at about 8:30 a.m., it was a muffled keening sound that froze the young woman in her tracks.
The noise sounded like the distant cries of an infant in distress. Concerned, the seemingly compassionate 22-year-old began to investigate. And sure enough, when the young student followed the sound to its source, she found a baby abandoned in the back of a Nissan pick-up.
There was no way of telling how long the tiny human had been lying there alone. However, the baby was clearly cold, wearing just a damp all-in-one suit with a dirty bib and diaper. And so, the female student wasted no time in alerting the emergency services to her discovery.
Minutes later, local cops and paramedics were in attendance. Captain Steve Suarez of Leon County Emergency Medical Services was among their number. “The biggest concern we had at that point was exposure to the elements,” he later told the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper in December 2017. “We could tell [the baby] was relatively new to the world. I think we were all struck by how cold and alone he felt in the pick-up.”
Strangely, Suarez had elected that morning to pack a special infant-warming mattress in his emergency vehicle. The captain had only ever used it once in his career and that was during a training session. He had no explanation for his decision to include the specialized item on his truck. Nonetheless, it would now appear to prove invaluable in helping to save the abandoned baby.
Later, Suarez would tell the local newspaper that it was “an incredible coincidence” that he had included the mattress in his inventory that day. In fact, it led the captain to believe that perhaps higher forces were at work. “It gives me chills just thinking about it,” he confessed.
And that was by no means the only incredible facet to the story. Indeed, the paramedics rushed the abandoned baby to the Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare center in the city’s midtown. That day, respiratory therapist Lorraine Nichols just happened to be on E.R. duty – and she would go on to change the little one’s life.
Meanwhile at the hospital, doctors estimated that the unfortunate baby was less than one week old. And he was in quite a sorry state. Despite Suarez’s special heated mattress, the newborn was suffering from hypothermia due to the cold. In addition, the baby was extremely hungry. What’s more, the fact that his soft skin was peeling away suggested that he was severely dehydrated. “My heart just went out to him,” Nichols later admitted.
However, despite everything that the baby had been through in his short life already, his future looked promising. “I assessed his breathing his – you know – oxygen,” Nichols told TV news show USA Today’s online Humankind platform in February 2018. “For the most part he was fine. Cold, hungry, wet, but he was fine.”
While Nichols had no doubt treated countless patients over the course of her 18-year career, there was something immediately different here. She had instantly fallen head-over-heels in love with the abandoned baby. And straight away, the medic knew that this was her chance to become a mom.
But like the forsaken infant, Nichols had faced hardships in her life, too, including overcoming breast cancer not once but twice. What’s more, the medical specialist had been desperate to become a mother. Her retired-military-man husband, 66-year-old Charles, had come with three children of his own, but they had been practically fully grown. So the couple had spent thousands of dollars on IVF treatments in an attempt to become pregnant. But eventually doctors warned against it, as apparently the hormones involved in the process could have caused Nichols’ cancer to return.
As a result, the couple had decided to go down the adoption route. But after completing the arduous vetting process, the Nichols were disappointed to discover that it could be years before a suitable child came their way. The respiratory specialist had previously turned to God for a resolution, and it seemed those prayers had been answered. Nichols now held her dream baby in her arms.
Indeed, as soon as she clapped eyes on the abandoned mite, the overwhelmed woman was already experiencing the bond of motherhood. Feeling there was no time to lose, then, Nichols called her husband and told him that she wanted to adopt the newborn. Charles readily agreed to her wishes, as he later told the Tallahassee Democrat. “I just wanted to support my wife,” he said. “Whatever she wants. Whatever makes her happy makes me happy.”
And it was a seemingly elated and hopeful Nichols who called the Florida Department of Children and Families, and her case manager at the local Children’s Home Society, regarding a possible adoption. Things from there moved fast. While the baby was kept in hospital for observation, the children’s department empowered Nichols to make decisions on his behalf since the infant had no one. Four days later, then, the newborn – whom the medic had decided to call Charlie – came home with her.
While Nichols had helped to raise her stepchildren, her first week as the mom of a newborn appeared to be a steep learning curve. “Some women have nine months to prepare for that. I had one week,” she told Humankind. “I was just scared I was gonna break him.”
However, despite the challenges instant motherhood posed, Nichols was just grateful for the opportunity of being a parent. “It’s just been amazing,” she told the cameras in the filmed news report, which has since been uploaded to YouTube. “He’s my miracle, my angel. He’s all my prayers been answered. This is what I’ve been praying for, for years.”
And in September 2017, four months after Charlie’s rescue, his adoption by the Nichols became official. So now the family could finally start making big plans for their future together. These included preparations for the baby’s first Christmas and getting a passport for his first vacation – a cruise in March 2018.
Like almost all parents, Nichols and her husband have high hopes for their infant son. They plan to take him swimming and look forward to the boy taking up martial arts when he is old enough. As well as being physically active, their ambition is for Charlie to learn a musical instrument. And in the future, the Nichols want their boy to go to college to become the best possible version of himself.
So although this new mom’s journey to motherhood was a difficult one, Nichols would not have had it any other way. It was a tough start to be sure, but with the love of his adoptive family, Charlie now looks set to thrive. Nichols summed up her first few months with her baby boy to Humankind. “It just means so much,” she said, holding Charlie. “It’s more than I could ever imagine or dream of. And just to have the experience to be someone’s mom, it’s just wonderful. I’m just grateful and humble to have him.”