Pediatric nurse Danielle Freeman spends her days taking care of little ones at Akron Children’s Hospital. But, she hadn’t even entered the doors of the hospital on Tuesday when she was called into duty helping some especially little ones – a family of ducklings who had tumbled down into a sewer on the hospital campus, causing extreme anxiety for the mother goose pacing nearby.
It was just before 8 am when Danielle saw the “frantic” mother duck and one duckling near a sewer grate in the Water Street surface lot.
“I thought, oh my, gosh, please don’t tell me this is what happened and, sure enough, I walk over and there’s 8 or 9 baby ducks way down in the sewer,” said Danielle, who works in Akron Children’s Neurology Department. “I couldn’t leave them.”
The mother duck was quacking like crazy and pacing back and forth, with one little remaining duckling following her, and repeatedly almost falling in the grate too.
“The last one finally jumps in after the others,” said Danielle, with a laugh.
As other employees arrived, different ideas for rescue were discussed. The group called the hospital’s Public Safety Department, the Akron Fire Department, and Animal Control.
Danielle worried that if too much time passed, the mother would abandon the babies and they would die. She decided she had to go into the sewer herself to rescue them.
Other employees helped pull up tar around one sewer grate and lifted it up. Danielle jumped in. She could hear “peeping” and it was obviously the ducklings were moving around the pipes in the sewer system to stay as close as possible to their mother’s voice. She thought she had all of them, but heard one remaining peeping sound and grabbed the last one.
Once the last duckling was out, they moved them far away from the parking lot.
Danielle, who recently became board certified as a pediatric nurse practitioner, is already thinking of injury prevention.
“This is a flawed design,” she said of the sewer grate. “We need to design a sewer grate that doesn’t allow little ducks to fall in.”
Heather Belacic, clinical operations manager in Pediatric Gastroenterology and Surgery, said seeing Danielle lift the last of the baby ducklings out of the sewer was a “magical moment” and the “best way to start a day.”
Other employees who assisted in the rescue included Dr. Scott Boulanger (General Surgery) Amanda Hale (Pulmonology), Nate Sole (Pediatric Psychology and Psychiatry) and Carrie Wagner (GI).
And the heroic actions of their co-worker did not surprise Danielle’s co-workers in Neurology, who offered her a clean pair of scrubs when she arrived into work.
Nicole Oehlers, a triage nurse in the NeuroDevelopmental Science Center, summed it up this way: “Danielle always does the right thing.”