METHUEN — It was any parent's worst nightmare.
Erin Solomon of 20 Linda Ave. had just come out to her car in the parking lot of Pediatric Professionals on Broadway after her 2-1/2 year-old son Karter was checked out for a lump on his head he got from roughhousing with his two brothers Friday morning.
He was given the all-clear by the medical staff and the worried mom was eager to get back home, where she had left 3-year-old Liam and 4-year-old Joseph under the care of 13-year-old daughter, Lillian.
Ordinarily, Solomon, a social worker at Dana-Farber in Boston, would have brought the other two boys with her, but didn't want to potentially expose them to the highly contagious coronavirus at the medical facility.
"Today it was down-pouring rain so I put my purse and bags in the truck," she said in an email to The Eagle-Tribune. "I never use my husband’s truck (a Nissan Titan) and am not familiar with it and I buckled my son in the car seat. When I shut his door I immediately discovered I locked him in the truck with all the doors and windows locked."
That's when panic set in.
"I didn't have my phone (because it was in the truck) but I couldn't leave my son," said the distraught Solomon. "I just started crying."
She saw another mother in the parking lot who offered a cellphone so Erin could call her husband. But he couldn't be reached.
She tried AAA, but was told all the services were suspended, due to the coronavirus.
Solomon then ran inside the pediatrician's office to get help while the other mother stayed behind, making sure Karter was OK.
Inside the pediatric office, Nurse Manager Lisa Longo called 911 as staff members, including phlebotomist Mark Steitz, went outside to see how they could help until firefighters arrived.
As Erin fretted and wept, Steitz kept young Karter occupied, making faces and getting him to play with his Paw Patrol sticker the doctor's office had given him.
"You have to be calm and let the parent know that everything is under control," said Steitz, a father and grandfather himself. "She's freaking out because she just locked her son in the car. As medical professionals, we just did what we had to do."
Solomon singled out Steitz as being critical in keeping her son calm during the incident, which may have felt like a lifetime but only lasted about five minutes.
"He was so cute but we had to keep him calm," Steitz said. "He was just sitting there playing with his stickers. He cried a little bit, but he cried because the mother was crying."
He noted that it wasn't a hot day so the interior of the car remained cool.
"He was safe," Steitz said. "The Fire Department was here within minutes and got the car open in two minutes. The Methuen Fire Department was fantastic."
Solomon was effusive in her thanks.
"The response, the kindness, the caring of everyone there was amazing," said Solomon, who praised and thanked the Methuen firefighters and the staff from Pediatrics Professionals. "I can't express my gratitude enough."