The mother was standing at the door, waiting for the rescue team. "Hurry," she cried, "we're losing her!"
Two Howard County firefighters trained in emergency medical care and a cardiac rescue technician raced upstairs, where they found 8-year-old Meredith Hiley lying outside the bathroom.
She had no pulse. She wasn't breathing. And her heart was barely beating.
But within minutes, the team stabilized Meredith's heartbeat and rushed her to Mount Hebron High School, where she was taken by helicopter to Johns Hopkins Hospital.
For their effort that October morning, those emergency personnel are scheduled to receive "Gift of Life" awards today in a ceremony at the county building. The team will be one of three units honored for lifesaving work during emergency calls since September.
Firefighters, who often shy away from the label of "hero," said they're pleased that their work will be recognized.
"It feels pretty good," said David O'Neill, one of the firefighters who helped revive Meredith. "We were just doing our jobs."
The "Gift of Life" awards, given since 1986, usually are bestowed shortly after firefighters save a life.
One of the rescues occurred just two weeks ago, on Dec. 12. That night, Ronald J. Shrader, 49, began to experience chest pains about 9:30. But the Laurel resident tried to ignore the discomfort, hoping it would subside.
He didn't call the fire department until about midnight, after his wife and son had come home from bowling. Shortly after emergency personnel from Stations 6 and 10 arrived, Shrader went into cardiac arrest on his living room floor.
Rescuers tried six times before Shrader regained a regular heartbeat, and they worked on him about an hour before they could take him to Greater Laurel Beltsville Hospital.
Shrader, who was still recovering in Washington Adventist Hospital last week, didn't expect to attend this morning's ceremony. But if he could, he said, he wouldn't be able to think of words to thank the firefighters.
"I don't know what I would say," Shrader said. "Thank you wouldn't be quite enough. Because of them, I still have my life, I've got my family. I wouldn't be here. By now, they would have me buried."
Donald C. Klein has similar feelings.
Klein, 67, has had a coronary artery problem for about 10 years. He recalls checking his pulse about 2 a.m. Sept. 23 as he returned to his bedroom from the bathroom. When he counted it at seven beats per minute, he knew something was wrong.
"I have to get to the hospital," the Ellicott City psychologist told his wife.
Klein then went into cardiac arrest for about 15 minutes until firefighters from Station 5 arrived and performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation and gave him oxygen.
He was so pleased with the efficiency of the firefighters that he wrote a letter to a local newspaper.
"Their work was very ably done, very quickly done, very optimal," he said last week. "I saw modern medicine and modern medical technology working at its best. I really appreciate the job they did."
On Oct. 24, the firefighters from Station 8 knew they had an unusual emergency when they got a call about an unconscious child possibly in cardiac arrest. "Usually, it means the child has a serious medical problem," said Lt. Calvin S. Wiley, one of the firefighters who responded. "You wonder what you'll find, and if you'll be able to help."
The rescuers found Meredith Hiley, unconscious and in cardiac arrest, her father performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
O'Neill began to administer oxygen. Another firefighter, William A. Smith, began to do chest compressions. Joseph A. Mihm, a cardiac rescue technician, defibrillated the heart twice, and a minute later, Meredith was breathing again.
"When she took that first breath, everybody breathed a sigh of relief," O'Neill said.
Monica Hiley recalled that she and her husband stood "helplessly watching" as the firefighters worked on their daughter.
"They were just terrific," said Monica Hiley, an Ellicott City resident. "They couldn't have been more professional. This situation could have turned out so differently."
Monica Hiley said that Meredith, who has a rare heart condition, spent about four weeks in the hospital and now wears a pacemaker. She said the second-grader "is doing great" and has resumed classes at Waverly Elementary School.
Firefighter Smith said he was looking forward to seeing Meredith again at this morning's ceremony. "I'm going to tell her that God has definitely blessed her," said Smith, a member of the department for five years. "Then I'm going to give her a big hug."