Cambria family finalizes adoption of 'miracle' boy from Philadelphia
Sporting a tiny mohawk, 15-month-old Eli Hunter Primel scampers around the Westmoreland County Courthouse with an ear-to-ear grin that belies the first rocky days of his young life.
He knows nothing about the drug-addicted mother who wanted no part of him.
He doesn't remember the cop who breathed life back into him when he was born barely alive on the front seat of a car in Northeast Philadelphia.
And he's just getting to know the Cambria County couple, already the parents of 10 children, who fell in love with him and knew that somehow they would have to find room in their home and their lives for the down-on-his-luck little boy.
“We wish there were more people that would step forward and do what we're doing,” said Ray Primel, 54, who along with his wife, Esther, 47, finalized Eli's adoption Wednesday before Westmoreland County Judge Chris Scherer.
“This is our calling,” he said.
But the Primels know they owe it all to Philadelphia police Lt. David Hunter, who traveled to Greensburg on Wednesday to witness Eli's adoption.
Without him, it's likely Eli would be dead.
On Jan. 13, 2012, Hunter was on routine patrol when a medical call came in about noon in the northeastern part of the city.
He recalls the details of that Friday clearly — a woman was in a car, about to give birth.
“Eli was half in and half out,” Hunter said. “He wasn't breathing, he didn't have a pulse.”
He began resuscitation and Eli survived, but his birth mother flatly rejected him.
“That just hit a chord in the heart,” Hunter said.
A father of four, Hunter visited the newborn daily at the hospital, caring for Eli as if the baby was his own.
“He didn't have a family, he was in the world by himself,” Hunter said.
As the process of finding a home for Eli began, the Greensburg office of Adoptions From The Heart became involved and contacted the Primels, knowing they had already adopted three special-needs children, in addition to their seven biological children.
“They're humble, gracious, hard-working people,” said Adoptions from the Heart supervisor Debbie Cohen.
The Primels, who own a tire retreading shop in Cambria County, traveled to Philadelphia to meet Eli when he was just a week old.
That sealed the deal, Esther Primel said.
“We are always interested in the special cases,” she added, noting that Eli was born addicted to drugs and has since experienced some developmental delays. “We don't care; he needs a family.”
Eventually, Eli was moved to the Primels' Jackson Township home, but they never lost touch with Hunter, sending him updates and photos and deciding that their son's middle name would be Hunter, after the man who saved his life.
Scherer said the ceremony was “heartwarming” and commended the officer for caring for the child.
After spending much of the morning in the courthouse, the Primels gathered up members of their brood, now ranging in age from 15 months to 30, and headed home, but not before thanking the officer who saved their little boy.
“He has certainly beaten all the odds,” Hunter said. “He truly is a miracle.”
Renatta Signorini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-837-5374 or firstname.lastname@example.org.