National Attention Focused on Boy Rescued From Quake With PM-SF Quake, Bjt
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) _ The traumatic rescue of a 6-year-old boy from the rubble of Tuesday’s earthquake has become a focal point of sympathy and good will from his classmates, his city and his president.
Julio Berumen lost his right leg after doctors had to cut through the body of his dead mother to free him from the family car trapped in a freeway collapse.
The Richmond boy was in serious but stable condition Friday. His 8-year-old sister, Cathy, was in fair condition with head injuries suffered in the crash.
While the children’s father, Pastor, waited for further word about his children, news of Tuesday’s rescue had spread.
By Friday, Children’s Hospital officials said there was even some discussion about a presidential bedside visit.
President Bush did meet Friday with Dr. Jim Betts, who performed the surgery on the boy while lying on his stomach on a board which had been pushed into a narrow opening in the wreckage.
The hospital had received hundreds of calls by Friday from around the country expressing support for the family. People stopped at the front desk to bring toys. Some of them were in tears.
Hospital officials said the elder Berumen was aware of the attention his family had attracted, but wanted to stay out of the spotlight.
″He’s vey much in touch with this, but in his grief, he has asked everyone to leave,″ said hospital spokesman Dennis Green.
Green said Berumen had been at the hospital almost constantly since the accident and was being supported by relatives, friends and hospital counselors.
The rescue, to many people, brought the earthquake very close to home.
″It really brings it (the earthquake) to a personal level,″ said Antonieta Franco, Cathy’s teacher. ″The whole family was very close. The mother was devoted to her children. She dropped them off at school and picked them up in the morning.″
Now, the mother was dead after being killed instantly when a pillar on the freeway sliced through her car.
Cathy was pried from the car soon after rescuers reached it, but Julio was pinned. The mother lay between the rescuers and the boy. Doctors decided they had no choice but to saw through the seat and the body to get to Julio.
Then came the decision to amputate the boy’s leg.
″I’d do it again,″ Betts said afterwards. ″I knew if I was up there or one of my family members were up there, I’d want them to do it.″
The story of the rescue, which took more than four hours, has stirred neighbors and friends who have organized two funds to help the family.
And the memory of it will serve as a reminder for many of the children’s classmates long after the last aftershock fades.
″It’s going to be hard for the kids in my class to forget about it (the earthquake) after something like this.″ Ms. Franco said.