A New York police officer who once saved the life of a baby girl more than two decades ago will attend her wedding Sunday in southwest suburban Palos Hills.
Joseph Barca, now a 45-year veteran and captain for the Yonkers Police Department, was on patrol more than 20 years ago when he received a call about a 2-month-old infant who had stopped breathing.
Less than a minute away, Barca raced to the scene where he began to perform CPR.
“I could tell the air was not reaching the baby’s lungs, I rolled her over, gave her four good back blows, I was able to get a lot of mucus out of her throat,” Barca said.
He then continued to perform CPR in the back seat of another squad car as they raced to the hospital.
“I could feel life coming back into the child,” he said.
Shammah Hamideh survived the incident and she and Barca have shared a special bond ever since.
“Her father told me that he’s her dad, he gave her life the first time, but I gave her life the second time,” Barca said, noting the family has since dubbed him Hamideh’s “American father.”
The two have stayed in contact over the years through phone calls and emails, and Barca’s family even sends her birthday and Christmas cards every year.
“They have never forgotten my birthday,” Hamideh said. “Every year they send me a birthday card and a check and a Christmas card and a check. I don’t even celebrate Christmas but it’s the thought that counts.”
Barca, who has three sons of his own, said he thinks of Hamideh as a daughter.
“It’s almost like one of my own getting married,” he said. “We have that special feeling, why it happened I don’t know... It’s just a strong bond.”
“He’s my hero,” she said. “There’s not much more I can say. He’s my hero and he means so much to me.”
Hamideh said Barca’s actions that day have inspired her to begin a career in the healthcare field.
“The way he saved my life, I would love to give back to people that way,” she said.
But Barca doesn’t see himself as the hero Hamideh says he is.
“I’m just somebody who had a lot of good training, fell back on my training and did it,” he said.
As for the Sunday ceremony, Barca said he anticipates being “misty-eyed,” but is excited and grateful to be a part of it.