By Conor McCue

DENVER (CBS4) – Sunday was a special day at the Denver Zoo for a grateful family. Sarah and Eric Riggs returned for the first time since their 2-week-old almost died.

(credit: CBS)

The family took part in a walk to raise awareness about congenital heart diseases; a medical condition they never knew their baby had until six weeks ago.

“We were walking around just when we got in and we realized that Hadley started to look a little blue,” said Sarah, Hadley’s mother.

denver ZOO HEART WALK riggs family

Hadley Riggs (credit: CBS)

Minutes later, while at the sea lion exhibit, Sarah said Hadley stopped breathing.

“My first instinct was just to keep screaming for doctors and nurses and that’s kind of what I did,” she said. “Luckily, a bunch of people came running our way.”

Among the group were Dr. Carolynn Francavilla Brown and James Boyer, an off-duty Denver Health paramedic. Both jumped in and started CPR.

denver ZOO HEART WALK riggs family

(credit: Riggs family)

“It was really scary,” said Francavilla Brown. “I mean, I showed up and saw a purple baby and we knew we only had a little bit of time to make a difference in that baby’s life.”

Later, while receiving care at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children, doctors learned Hadley’s aorta had closed.

“It was that CPR that saved this baby’s life and got this baby to us in a condition where we could help her,” said Dr. Sue Kirelik, a pediatric emergency physician at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children.

Days later, Hadley underwent successful open-heart surgery, allowing her to live a long, healthy life.

denver ZOO HEART WALK riggs family

Eric Riggs hugs James Boyer who helped save Riggs’ daughter. (credit: CBS)

“It was kind of a relief once we knew that it was something that could be fixed and that research has made it so many children have been able to live through this condition,” said Sarah.

On Sunday, Hadley and her family met up with the two people who saved her life during the Denver Congenital Heart Walk at Denver Zoo. It was the first time the Riggs had officially met the two people they call “heroes.”

denver ZOO HEART WALK riggs family

Walk at Denver Zoo to raise awareness for congenital heart diseases. (credit: CBS)

“Today has been amazing,” said Sarah. “The sense of community that has come to surround us with all this is amazing and to be able to meet these people who saved my daughter’s life, there’s nothing like it in the world.”

The two parents say they plan to stay in touch with both of Hadley’s heroes. They also learned one of them is a neighbor.

Conor McCue


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