As a seasoned policeman, Michael Buelna had saved lives before. It was part of his job, after all, and because he protected one of the country’s more dangerous cities, he frequently flexed his heroism muscle.
But on a chilly autumn night, he leaped into action to carry out a different kind of rescue mission, one that would stay with him forever. And, decades later, an unexpected phone call brought the case back into his life with an intensity he never saw coming…
In 1989, officer Michael Buelna cruised into one of the rougher neighborhoods of Santa Ana, California. He was performing a routine scan of the area after a stabbing, but the humdrum case took a turn when locals waved him towards an alley.
Michael didn’t see anything out of the ordinary at first, but he picked up on “a sound of a very low meow, like a cat or something.” He followed the noise to its source, between a dumpster and a wall. Michael could hardly believe his eyes.
It was a wailing infant, lying face down and exposed on the asphalt. To his horror, Michael noticed the umbilical cord was still attached. Thinking quickly, Michael radioed for immediate medical assistance.
The discovery shook Michael to the extent that he wasn’t willing to simply hand over the baby to the EMTs. Instead, he rode in the ambulance while a police escort guided them to the hospital as quickly as possible.
Fortunately, Michael acted in the nick of time. Although the newborn was suffering from hypothermia, the medical team expected him to make a full recovery. But there were still unanswered questions.
A nurse turned to Michael and mentioned the baby, only a few hours old, needed a name. After conferring, they settled on Adam. It was somehow appropriate for this miracle infant that seemingly popped up out of nowhere.
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Michael and Adam shared a tender moment together that night in the hospital, but the police officer soon had to head out and resume his duties. So what would happen to Baby Adam?
Even though the local news publicized the incredible baby rescue, authorities were unable to locate a responsible family member to raise Adam. Like so many other abandoned children, he was put up for adoption.
Before too long, however, the infant’s luck turned around. Elizabeth Barton and Daniel Fernandez — top candidates among couples looking to adopt — took him in as part of their family. Once they brought him home, they bestowed him with a new name: Robin Barton.
Although Robin spent the first few hours of his existence scared and alone, Elizabeth and Daniel made sure he never felt abandoned again. Looking back, Robin agreed that some higher power had blessed him with a great family.
Through all his blissful childhood years, Robin did not have the faintest idea about his miraculous rescue. Elizabeth and Daniel kept his origins a secret so Robin could be a normal kid. But as he got older, he started asking questions.
Facebook / Robin Barton
Once Robin reached maturity, Elizabeth understood it was time to share the whole story with him. She told him everything about the adoption and the brave police officer who saved him, even though she feared this revelation would shatter their family.
But Robin didn’t show any resentment or anger. He was nothing but grateful that Daniel and Elizabeth gave him such a wonderful family, though he proposed one interesting idea. Robin wanted to meet the policeman who found him in the alley.
Meanwhile, Michael Buelna served with the Santa Ana police until he stepped down in his 50s. Michael enjoyed his retirement, though his thoughts often turned back to that infant he discovered years ago. One day in 2015, a call came in from a member of his old force.
The officer asked if Michael remembered Adam. Of course, he did. But what the retired officer didn’t see coming was the invitation to meet with Adam — now Robin — for the first time in 25 years. How could he say no?
When the two men first came face-to-face, they didn’t know quite what to say. There was nothing that could be said. They just embraced. Then, Michael dropped a bombshell.
Michael explained why he felt so motivated to ensure that Robin would survive: it turns out that Michael’s own parents left him at a young age! Based on his own hardships, he couldn’t bear to see another child grow up without a family. And as a matter of fact, Robin’s family was about to get a whole lot bigger.
Robin’s reunion with Michael got huge press coverage, which allowed him to track down other people from his past. Soon after, he met his birth father, Marcos Meza, who learned about the story on TV.
Marcos also introduced Robin to his daughters! Within a few weeks, the baby who was once left to die found himself suddenly surrounded by more family than he could ever imagine. All Robin was missing was his mother.
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As it turns out, Robin’s birth mother was out of reach. After Sabrina Diaz spent years in prison for child abandonment, the government deported her to Mexico. Nevertheless, Robin doesn’t see his mother as a villain.
Maybe Robin will be able to connect with his mother someday, but for now, he knows he’s incredibly lucky. He never truly understood the gravity of his situation until a few years later, when he heard a story from New Jersey.
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Trooper Michael Patterson patrolled a Kingwood Township highway on Friday, June 1, 2018. Sometime that afternoon, the 26-year-old officer spotted a white BMW with windows tinted beyond the legal limit. He turned his sirens on.
It should have been a routine traffic stop: An exchange of a license and registration. A ticket. A farewell. But when Patterson confronted the man he’d just pulled over—an interaction caught on his body cam—they started chatting.
Through the men’s conversation, Matthew Bailly, below, the BMW’s driver, revealed he was a former police officer from Piscataway, a township about 40 miles west from Kingswood. Trooper Patterson perked up when he heard the name Piscataway.
As it turned out, Trooper Patterson was born in the central New Jersey township, pictured below, back on October 5, 1991. He told retired-officer Bailly, who fired back with a question: “What street did you live on?”
Piscataway Township Police Department / Facebook
“Poe Place,” Trooper Patterson replied. Coincidentally, Officer Bailly, pictured below, held a fond memory of the short, dead-end street, which he recounted to the trooper leaning into his passenger side window.
When he was a rookie with just four years of experience, Officer Bailly cruised through Piscataway before dispatch sent him to a house on Poe Place where a woman named Karen faced a dire situation.
The situation started like this: Karen, seen nearly three decades later, below, was pregnant with a child due any day when she took her 10-year-old son, Terek, to the grocery store. While there, she suffered severe contractions that doubled her over in pain.
Groceries purchased, Karen sped to her home on Poe Place, keeping her legs clamped tightly together. When she pulled into the driveway, her husband, Bobby, carried her inside. There, he called 9-1-1 and her doctor. Officer Bailly responded to the call.
And only minutes after his arrival at Poe Place, the rookie officer—coached by the doctor over the phone—delivered the baby! He even unwrapped the umbilical cord from around his neck. That moment—and Poe Place—stayed with Officer Bailly for decades.
The second he finished recounting his story to Trooper Patterson, the young police officer, now smiling, extended a hand through the passenger-side window—an action caught by his body camera. “That was me!” he blurted out. “That was me!”
In disbelief, Officer Bailly back-peddled through the story, searching for the reasons it was impossible. Had he truly hand-delivered the police officer now giving him a citation for tinted windows? Trooper Patterson insisted.
“I was born at home,” the young trooper said, laughing. He was literally born and raised in a blue Cape Cod-style home, below, just like the one the retired officer so fondly remembered. What were the chances of this encounter?
As the New Jersey State Police Facebook page put it, “We’re not sure what the odds are of this happening—maybe they’re close to the odds of a hole-in-one, winning the lottery, or being struck by lightning.” With odds like that, this was a cause for celebration…
Trooper Patterson let Matthew Bailly off without a ticket—that was the least he could do for guiding him into the world, after all. And, after going their separate ways, the two men called their wives.
Naturally, the wives asked if the men had taken pictures or exchanged contact information—anything more than a handshake! Of course, they hadn’t. But Trooper Patterson did know Officer Bailly’s address from the traffic stop…
Trooper Patterson swung by his house and left a note, and Officer Bailly responded, inviting Trooper Patterson and his wife over to join him and his own wife for dinner. Trooper Patterson accepted the invitation—and he brought another guest as well.
He brought his mother! She tearfully reconnected with the man who’d helped her through an important, vulnerable, and dangerous moment in her past. As Officer Bailly put it, “there were a couple of tears shed perhaps by my wife and his mom.”
At this meet-up, Trooper Patterson and Officer Bailly didn’t forget to take photos, and the two agreed to stay connected, setting up a date to grab pizza in the not-too-distant future. Meanwhile, Trooper Patterson had a request for the retired officer…
New Jersey State Police / Facebook
Trooper Patterson’s wife Alison, left, was due to give birth herself in a few weeks. Maybe, the new friends joked, Officer Bailly could swing by the house and help deliver their baby, too. That would keep the family tradition alive!