Lawrence + Memorial employee recognized for helping toddler found on New London sidewalk at 4 a.m.

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New London — When Hannah Schukei was driving up Montauk Avenue shortly after 4 a.m. Monday and observed a toddler standing between two cars, she thought she must have seen wrong. She had just gotten off a 12-hour shift at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital and had only gotten three and a half hours of sleep before that, after all.

But after doing two U-turns, Schukei confirmed she had seen correctly and called 911. New London Police Chief Peter Reichard said the parents were located within an hour, and reunited with their 2-year-old son shortly after.

Wearing scrubs and silver shoes as she prepared for another shift at the hospital, Schukei went to the New London Police Department on Tuesday afternoon to receive a citation "for going above and beyond the call of duty," along with a challenge coin, from Reichard. Registered nurses and other L+M employees came to support her.

Schukei is a 19-year-old recent graduate of Three Rivers Community College who is working as a patient care assistant at L+M. After her shift ended at 4 a.m. Monday, she was headed home to North Franklin.

Schukei spotted the toddler near Willetts Avenue, in the same block as Cumberland Farms. She did one U-turn to confirm she saw correctly, and another to pull off to the side of the road, next to the child.

She rolled down the window and asked him something like, "Hey buddy, what's up?" she recalled. He ran up to her side of the car, opened her door and threw his arms up. Schukei picked him up and called 911. The boy was uninjured, but she assumes he was scared.

He had been standing on the sidewalk between two cars, and Schukei assumed someone was in one. She was waiting for a mom to run out and ask, "Why are you touching my kid?"

When an ambulance arrived, Schukei went to set him down, but he wouldn't let go. So she went to the hospital with him.

Schukei said as she re-entered L+M, she joked, "Jeez, I tried to leave, I really did." The toddler could say "apple" for wanting apple juice and a few numbers, she said, but not a name or an address.

Reichard said that after Schukei called, police put out an Everbridge notification — a type of reverse 911 call — to the immediate area, informing people a child was found. First responders began doing a door-by-door search in the area, and an ambulance crew noticed that a front door of a house looked open.

"They stopped, they got out, they knocked on the door, awoke the parents, and the parents were shocked to find out their child was missing," Reichard said.

He said the police investigation found that the child has gotten out of the house in the past when the parents had the door locked. Capt. Brian Wright added that the parents had changed the handle of one door but the child "was observant and adapted and went through the front door" this time.

The police still have an investigation going and have been in contact with the state Department of Children and Families, Reichard said, but he doesn't expect any criminal charges.

"One of our campaigns is if you see something, say something," Reichard said to Schukei. "In this case, you saw something and you took action, and your actions saved the life of this child and prevented a tragedy from possibly taking place."

He said the parents were notified of the award presentation to Schukei but had a prior family engagement, and that they expressed that Schukei gave them faith.

e.moser@theday.com

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