Firefighter Reunited with the Abandoned Newborn He Rescued 18 Years Ago

by Greg Pollowitz

A Gibson County man who saved a newborn baby’s life 18 years ago surprised her at her high school graduation.   

Little Skyler James was saved by current AMR Rep. Charlie Heflin in 1995. 

Skyler recently graduated from Charleston High School in Charleston, Illinois. Following the ceremony, little did she know she was in for an emotional reunion.

The story begins back in November, 1995 on a very cold morning in Champagne, Illinois.

“My birth mother abandoned me,” said Skyler. “I was left in a cemetery. That night, there was a call put out to the dispatchers.”

An anonymous woman called 911 around 7a.m. that morning and told dispatchers a child had been abandoned under a pine tree at Mt. Hope Cemetery.

Police and fire crews were dispatched there, but couldn’t find anything.

That’s when local firefighter Charlie Heflin, who happened to be listening to the scanner traffic, decided to help.

On a hunch, Charlie went to a different nearby cemetery to look for the infant.

He didn’t find anything and started walking to his truck, but something told him to check again.

“I heard a little whimper when I got close to the tree,’ said Charlie. “I dug down inside this real huge pine tree and found her.”

Charlie says he scooped up the baby girl who was covered in blood and leaves, umbilical cord still attached, and was clinging to life in the sub-zero temperatures.

“I handed her off to the paramedics and I didn’t see her since,” said Charlie.

Skyler was adopted five days later by Bonnie and Greg James.

When Skyler turned five, Bonnie started looking for Charlie.

“We had his name from the newspaper,” said Bonnie. “Social media wasn’t what it is today back then.”

Just three weeks prior to Skyler’s graduation, Bonnie found Charlie on Facebook. She called the Patoka Fire Station and finally got a hold of him.

“The call was, ‘Are you Charlie Heflin? Do you remember rescuing a baby back in 1995,’” said Charlie. “My heart just sank.”. . .