When it comes to thank you notes, there may not be another more heartfelt than the one received by the South Pasadena police and fire departments.
It’s enough to make one cry, which Cindy Rubin did, wiping away tears as she talked about the coordinated efforts by the two agencies, which made several visits to her family’s South Pasadena home to assist with their daughter’s care and medical needs.
Reflecting on a difficult time, the kindness, support and compassion shown by members of both departments for young Darby Rubin “will never be lost on us,” explained Cindy, speaking on behalf of her husband, Jon, while recounting the journey their daughter took as they remained hopeful until her life sadly came to an end on the night of November 19, 2018.
A crushing blow, Darby’s chronic medical condition was described by doctors as terminal early on, yet Cindy says her child outlived the amount of time every physician had predicted during her short lifespan.
“She was a wonderful baby, and we’ll miss her deeply,” said Rubin, speaking of the bond shared by her husband and 3-year-old son, Dylan.
“Life won’t be the same.”
For the family, Darby brought love, inspiration and, unfortunately, a few medical scares along the way during some difficult, restless days and nights. “There were several calls to paramedics with the need to assist us with her breathing and CPR, ultimately lending the need to transport her to the hospital on a few occasions,” wrote Rubin in her note to South Pasadena Fire Department Chief Paul Riddle and Brian Solinsky, then interim police chief, and now a captain following the recent hiring of permanent Police Chief Joe Ortiz.
She praised the actions of those in uniform, saying the response calls were “made incredibly efficient by the helpful and skilled first responders” who were at the couple’s residence seemingly in an instant. Every one of them “are true heroes in our book,” applauded Cindy in her thank you note.
In Darby’s final hours, one last trip to the hospital was made on that harrowing November night. Maybe it was a mother’s instinct, as she pointed out in her letter, but Cindy knew in her heart that the family had lost their daughter.
“Nevertheless, I decided to transport her one final time to ensure that all life-saving measures had been taken,” she recalls. “During this critical rush to County USC Hospital, we arrived, and final measures were taken. I was informed that Darby was gone. I sat there alone while my husband was en route to the hospital to be by my side, and I held Darby in my arms and cried.”
Her fateful condition was Trisomy 13, leaving the infant with severe intellectual disability and physical abnormalities. Those associated with the ailment fail to grow and/or gain weight at the expected rate, experience temporary cessation of spontaneous breathing, and have feeding difficulties. Trisomy 13 affects only one in every 16,000 births.
When hospital personnel left the room, it became abundantly clear that “I was alone in my grief,” Rubin said sadly.
Thinking back on the traumatic ordeal, she is reminded of those who showed “true professionalism” during her family’s darkest hour, explaining that while all South Pasadena Fire Department paramedics are stellar at what they do, two in particular – Scott McLellan and Adam Tregenza – displayed exemplary actions.
“Mr. McLellan came and comforted me while I sobbed,” Rubin explained. “I did not know his name at the time, but I’ll never forget his face and the concern and compassion he showed me. He remained right at my side with his arm around me until my husband arrived. What a compassionate gesture, one that I will never forget.”
Genuine respect was also made toward Tregenza, Cindy saying that the firefighter/paramedic was at her home after nearly every single 911 emergency call. “From day one until the very end, Mr. Tregenza had come to know us as a family, and understood Darby’s condition vital to her needs,” she wrote in her thank you note to Riddle. “His concern, skillset and true professionalism will never be forgotten by our family.”
During that critical ride to County USC Hospital, Rubin remembers looking out the window of the front passenger seat of the ambulance as South Pasadena Police Department officers guided the emergency vehicle through traffic. They coordinated traffic breaks, allowing the ambulance to efficiently get to its final destination.
In that moment, Rubin recalls how fortunate she was to call South Pasadena her home. “What a great team of professionals helping us, and a wonderful feeling that emanates from this teamwork, emphasizing the true essence of what these fine professionals have chosen to do in their careers and for their community,” she said.
Rubin closed her letter to the local police and fire departments praising their knowledge, skills and compassion, extending her sincerest personal appreciation to all officers and firefighters who responded to their home, assisting them during Darby’s brief 15 months on Earth.
“We hope her spirit lives on as a cherished memory of their careers,” she concluded, adding it was “a short life, well lived and loved” by family and friends, and some of South Pasadena’s finest – the men and women of the South Pasadena police and fire departments.
An inscription on a rock to remember Darby Rubin can be found at the South Pasadena Children’s Memorial and Healing Garden, a place to honor children of all ages from the city who have passed away, in the north end of Garfield Park.
It’s a special place where Cindy and her family can go, find peace, and, yes, feel fortunate to have Darby in their lives.
“Whenever I looked at Darby, it felt like I was looking at an angel,” said Rubin. “She was so tender, sweet, innocent, pure and beautiful. She was ethereal. My child had this rare diagnosis. At first I thought to myself, what luck! Then I realized how lucky we truly were. Darby was the addition that completed our family, and her unique personality touched the lives of everyone she came into contact with. She defied all odds with each milestone she accomplished, and by the mere fact that she continued living beyond her birth. Then it all came crashing down last November. Her loss has been so profound to our little family and inner circle of loved ones. How do you say goodbye to a precious darling baby? I’m still figuring that out.”
Life, according to Darby’s mother, provides losses and heartbreak for all, but the greatest tragedy she said would be to not have the experience and miss the meaning altogether. “All we could do was live in each day and moment, plan ahead, be prepared and keep the faith,” Rubin said. “Some days when I was especially down and felt immobilized by sorrow, I picked back up from where I was, mentally reminding myself, ‘left foot, right foot, breathe.’
Darby would want us to enjoy life and be happy. She would want that so much and we will honor that. That notion stays in our hearts and is what keeps us going.
“There is no foot too small that cannot leave an imprint in this world,” she continued. “Darby left a huge imprint for us. Darby was loved. Darby was wonderfully made. Darby was beautiful. Darby was our masterpiece.”