Firefighters knew they had to act fast when they went inside the burning home of Erika Poremski. Why? Because there was a baby inside. But given how the flames had engulfed the whole house, they feared for the infant. Then they went into the bedroom and noticed something shocking.
28-year-old Erika is a single mom living in Baltimore. Viviana, who’s her 8-month-old baby girl, keeps her busy all the time, but she finds a way to live happily. Unfortunately, that all changed in 2016, when she almost lost it all one night. And it began with a power outage.
Erika had just placed Viviana to sleep in their bedroom on the home’s second floor. But there was a major electrical storm, so it was a challenge to get Polo, the family dog, and the baby to remain calm. Eventually, she managed to hit the hay. Then, lightning hit Erika’s home, and things got dark and scary real fast.
Erika was confused even as she tried and failed to get the lights to turn back on. She figured the lightning bolt had hit the electrical box. So she went looking for a flashlight in the dark and couldn’t find one. Then she lit a candle for her bedroom and tried calling her neighbors to tell them about what was happening, but her phone died suddenly.
Erika’s cell phone was her only way to communicate with the outside world because she didn’t have a landline. So she used a portable charger and tried plugging her phone in her car. Then Erika noticed a glowing light from the corner of her eyes as she waited for her phone to turn on. She turned and looked towards her bedroom window and saw the fire.
Erika rushed into the house and desperately searched for her baby. But when she opened the door, she was horrified. The couch and curtains were on fire and it spread to the carpeted floor. She raced towards the stairs, but the growing fire and smoke kept her away. As she heard Viviana’s cries, she felt despair because she couldn’t reach her.
The doors were coming off their hinges, but Erika was determined to get upstairs. She ended up burning the skin right off her hand when she touched the hot railing, but she was too busy worrying about her baby to notice. Then neighbors came by and kicked the windows and doors down, but no one could get to the second floor. Then the firefighters got there.
Erika told the firefighters were Viviana was and they raced upstairs with their axes and hoses until they were in the bedroom. They searched through the flames and smokes for the baby, and feared they were too late. But what they found instead was an unbelievable miracle.
Viviana was alive and on the bed, while Polo the dog was on top of her. He shielded her tiny body from the fire with own. The firefighters rushed over to rescue them both and get them outside to safety. Erika was so happy to see that her daughter was alive and overwhelmed when the firefighters told her how Polo saved the baby. Unfortunately, Polo’s action had a terrible consequence.
Viviana had suffered 19% burns on her body, which was the area that Polo wasn’t able to cover. But the pooch had passed away from the injuries he sustained from the fire. Erika was devastated and at the same time grateful to her dog. In a tearful interview, she pointed out that, “he was my first baby.” And although Viviana was alive, she wasn’t out of the woods just yet.
Viviana’s traumatic event forced her into a self-induced coma and Erica prayed for her daughter to get well soon. “So now I’m praying for a miracle from God to let my baby wake up,” she shared on Facebook. “To let me see her smile again and be able to see and hear momma say I love you beautiful.” Meanwhile, doctors were also worried too.
Viviana had third-degree burns on a part of her face, one leg, and one arm and doctors feared this would lead to swelling that would cause complications, such as brain damage. Months later, the baby was still in a coma, but Erika wasn’t ready to quit just yet. Fortunately, she had an emotional support system who was willing and able to get them both through this.
Erika’s family and friends set up a GoFundMe page to pay for Viviana’s medical bills, and in just 9 hours, they raised $5,000. They also used the social media hashtag #VivStrong and auctions to raise money and send Viviana and Erika positive vibes. Eventually, it seemed as if their prayers had been heard and answered.
Six months after the fire, Viviana’s swelling subsided and she finally opened her eyes. Now she was ready for skin grafting, which was the next step. At this point the fundraising efforts had gotten Erika over $42,000. But even with the financial support, Erika’s daughter still had a lot to deal with from a medical standpoint before she would fully recover.
Viviana suffered brain damage from the long-term swelling caused by the burns. But her skin grafting operations were successful, and there was hope for a full recovery using pressure tank oxygen therapy to increase the blood flow to her brain. Erika joined Viviana in the chamber and will continue to do so until her baby girl is 100% healthy and happy once again.