Discuss as:

Highway worker reunited with tot he saved with CPR

NBC 7 San Diego

Caltrans worker Joe Thomas with Cesar Ortiz. Thomas gave CPR to Cesar on the side of the road after the child's mother flagged him down.

A Caltrans maintenance worker who helped save a toddler’s life along State Route 54 in the San Diego area earlier this week was reunited with the happy, healthy baby boy and his very grateful family on Friday.


On Monday, Caltrans worker Joe Thomas was traveling along SR-54 when he noticed two women in distress on the side of the road, crying and waving for help.

The women, mother Denise Ortiz and grandmother Rebecca Hill, told Thomas their 13-month-old baby, Cesar Ortiz, wasn’t breathing and needed immediate medical attention.

Thomas called 911, grabbed the child from Hill's hands and proceeded to render first aid and CPR on the spot, saving the tot’s life.


Hill says the family was driving on the freeway when baby Cesar suddenly began crying and shaking. After that, the baby’s eyes rolled to the back of his head and he stopped breathing.

By the time Thomas pulled over and got to Cesar, Thomas says the boy was not breathing and had turned blue.

Thomas says he immediately began compressions on the baby’s chest and back and then administered CPR. Eventually, Cesar began gasping for air and was able to breathe on his own again.

Read more stories at NBCSanDiego.com

Emergency crews arrived shortly thereafter and transported the revived toddler to Rady Children's Hospital. He was released that same day and is now doing well.

The child's mother said Cesar had been sick a week earlier. Doctors told her the child had suffered a high fever in the car, followed by a small seizure that made him temporarily stop breathing.

Ortiz and Hill say they’re extremely thankful to Thomas for saving Cesar’s life.

Thomas says he just wanted the little boy to be okay and did what he had to do.

“I didn’t think about it, I just did it,” said Thomas.

All three believe Thomas was at the right place at the right time.

Normally, Thomas said he doesn’t travel along SR-54 for work, but that day something just told him to drive that way.

"I just think God led me that way that day. God just used me," he added.

Thomas, who’s worked for Caltrans for the past 15 years and has four children of his own, says he learned his CPR skills from training seminars held by his company.

Thomas says he receives CPR training through Caltrans every three years, but this was the first time he’s ever had to use those skills. He urges everyone to become trained in CPR as a precaution.

After this scary incident, both Ortiz and Hill say they plan to take CPR classes.

“I was scared; I’ve never been through this before,” said Ortiz. “I have to take a CPR class now, just in case.”

Happy ending and all, the story of Thomas, baby Cesar and family doesn’t end here.

They all say they plan to stay in touch for many years to come.

“We’re in a long term relationship now – I’m bringing them into my family,” said Thomas.

At Friday’s heartfelt reunion, baby Cesar was full of energy -- walking, laughing, talking and playing like a healthy, bouncy, baby boy. He hugged the man who saved him and giggled when Thomas put a white Caltrans hard-hat on his little head.

As for Caltrans, well, they're pretty proud of Thomas' quick-thinking and compassion on the job.

The company thanked their heroic worker on Twitter earlier this week, posting : “Great job Joe!”

Great job, indeed.