Kristie Mendes said she heard her 14-month-old son crying on Tuesday morning — but she couldn't find him anywhere in her home..
Then the mom from Waterford, Connecticut, made a startling discovery: Her son had fallen down a ventilation shaft in her home.
"I looked down and I saw him in the vent," she told WRAL. "I just couldn't breathe."
In her interview with NBC Connecticut, the mom said the experience was "extremely, extremely scary." She recalled that little Elijah Irizarry continued to wail for his "mommy" and "daddy" while he was trapped in the air conditioning duct — and that "he kept looking up trying to reach, but I couldn't reach him."
"He was too far down," she told NBC Connecticut.
So the panicked mother called 911, hoping that someone could help save her baby. Fox61 obtained transcripts of that frantic phone call.
"In the vent," Mendes said. "He's stuck in a vent in the house."
"Alright, alright," a 911 call taker responded. "Is he awake?"
"Yes!" the mom said. "He's awake and he's screaming."
Firefighters rushed to the house and found that the baby had fallen about 12 feet and was stuck between the first and second floor, according to The Waterford Professional Firefighters Association. It took them about 20 minutes to safely rescue the boy.
"Firefighters accessed the crawl space below the home," the association wrote, "and utilized equipment to disassemble the home's ventilation duct work."
The organization added: "Thanks to extensive training and the unification of all on scene emergency personnel this incident was mitigated swiftly and luckily resulted in a very positive outcome!"
The baby suffered minor injuries on its stomach and legs, officials told NBC Connecticut, and received treatment at a local hospital.
Mendes said she's thankful authorities were able to quickly come and rescue her child.
"Everyone said it was a miracle because just afterwards he was okay," she told NBC Connecticut. "It is a miracle and I'm so thankful for all the cops that helped, the firefighters, the EMTs, everyone that was here."
And the mother said she has learned an important lesson from the ordeal: Screw down your vent covers, according to WRAL.
"I want out of all of this to help people be aware that it can happen," Mendes said. "I'm getting all new grates and screwing them all down."