A New York police officer who saved a baby girl's life 20 years ago will now be the guest of honour at her wedding.
On December 28 1993, Joseph Barca, then a police sergeant in the New York suburb of Yonkers, was the first to respond to a distress call from a family whose two-month-old daughter Shammarah Hamideh had stopped breathing.
The baby girls's parents were understandably beside themselves with panic, but Barca immediately took charge of the situation.
Realising that the baby's airways were obstructed, he took the limp and lifeless child and managed to dislodge a lump of mucus from her throat. He then performed CPR until an ambulance arrived.
His quick-thinking reaction was rewarded a few months later, when he was given a special commendation for excellence. But for the 45-year veteran of the Yonkers police department, the rush of preventing a tragedy has always been the ultimate reward.
"The father showed up expecting to hear the worst," Barca told The Journal News. "I said, 'You hear that baby crying? That's yours.' Then he started crying."
Barca stayed on the force and currently holds the rank of captain, while the child whose life he saved, Shammarah Hamideh, has recently qualified as a nurse and is about to get married.
In all the years that have passed since he saved Shammarah's life, he says that the girl and her family have never forgotten his heroism.
The veteran officer says that Shammarah's father, Mahmoud, who is Palestinian, refers to Barca as his daughter's 'American dad'.
"He said he gave her life the first time, and I gave her life the second time," Barca recalls.
For his part, Barca - a father of three himself - sends Shammarah a birthday card every year and has witnessed her grow from an infant into an accomplished young woman.
So it was natural that while planning her wedding, which will take place this month, Shammraah - who now lives in Chicago - would set aside an invitation for her guardian angel.
Barca and his wife will be with Shammarah's family and friends when she ties the knot later this month - and the bride-to-be couldn't be happier.
"He's so sweet," Shammarah said. "He's very considerate - every year on my birthday, he sends me a birthday card and cheque. They treat me like I'm their daughter."
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