Parenthood coupled with work, laundry, cooking meals, servicing vehicles, and staying on top of bills propels life into overdrive and there’s seemingly no way of slowing it down. This was certainly true for Questa couple Agustin and Anna Rael.
On August 6 of 2022, the Questa couple found themselves racing through life, juggling the duties of parenthood when life came to a screeching halt when their then 7-month-old baby girl Anita pulled a crockpot of beans off the counter, dumping the scalding contents over herself.
“I immediately took her clothes off and tried to ensure none of the beans would stick to her and I put her in a blanket. I called my husband and he immediately called 9-1-1,” she recalled in an interview with the Questa del Rio News.
Anna jumped in her car and immediately got on the road to Taos. “As soon as I hit 522, I had my flashers on, and I was driving at 100 mph. All I could do was make sure she was still breathing. I knew if she stopped breathing it could take a turn,” she said emotionally, as she recalls the terrifying predicament.
An ambulance met Anna and Anita in Arroyo Hondo and other police vehicles including Taos Police, Taos Sheriff’s Office, and Questa Police escorted the ambulance as it raced toward Holy Cross Hospital. “I was an EMT with Questa Fire and EMS so they were very responsive and supportive with what we were going through,” Agustin said.
The family was transferred to Children’s Hospital in Denver where Anita was being cared for by the only burn physician in Denver. “Suddenly, the doctor informed us that he had a death in the family and told us they needed to transfer her to Dayton, Ohio to Shriners Hospital. I didn’t even know this place existed,” Anna said.
During the 3-hour-flight to Dayton, baby Anita coded in the helicopter when they were 40 minutes away from their destination. “All I can remember is holding my Bible and praying to God not to take my baby, please don’t take her away,” Anna recalls. She says the pilot, who was listening to the response to baby Anita, assured Anna she was okay, and things were going okay.
When they landed, Agustin, who had left earlier to make the 21-hour drive in time for when they got to the hospital, rushed to them after hearing about the terrifying experience in the air. “The minute he got there, I had to go sit in the truck. I needed to get away from the beeping machines and alarms for a minute,” Anna says.
Baby Anita was intubated for two weeks. She stayed in the hospital for nearly a month, where she underwent skin graft surgery. The family made their way back to Questa by car, and it took them three days, as they navigated the delicate medical state baby Anita was in.
When looking back, both mom and dad expressed their gratitude for their communities in both Taos and Questa, who supported them and carried them as they were dealing with this traumatic experience. “The fire department helped us with a boot drive, and I have to say, our tie to a pastor in Taos was a huge blessing. No matter what, when we needed to talk to him, no matter what we were feeling, he was there to pray with us, counsel us, he took us in as if we were one of his own. It was just such a major blessing, and the support back home is what gave me a lot of strength,” Agustin says.
Both mom and dad have gained a new outlook on life as they reflect on this traumatic event, one year later.
“One thing this experience has taught me is there is always going to be time to take care of the things you need to take care of. I didn’t have to go to the dump that day, I could’ve been home, and this might not have happened. I learned time is precious and instead of racing through it, it’s important to take time to cherish it and to cherish those you love,” Agustin says.
“Trials are blessings. Even though it may affect your loved one, or it may be hard to experience, through the trial, it brings you closer to God and to family and to community. Sometimes, trials are blessings in disguise,” Anna continues.
As for Anita, she is a typical rambunctious 20-month-old toddler who is outgoing, bubbly, and lively. To hear Anita’s story is to see the definition of resilience and strength.