FORT WORTH -- Between tears and laughter Friday, Michelle Mann expressed her gratitude to the firefighters who tried to save her 2-year-old son in February.
Thanks was all that she had to give them this Christmas season, Mann said.
"I remember how hard you fought for him to live and even after he died how hard you still fought for him," Mann said. "Every time I see that firetruck go by, I wave and wonder who you are going off to save now."
Mann, 27, said doctors did not hold out much hope for Fredrick after he was born with rhizomelic chondrodysplasia punctata Type I, a long name for a disease that takes away the ability to breathe, see, think, eat and move properly.
Some said Fredrick would not see his first birthday, Mann said.
"But he was a fighter," she said.
"He taught me so much about strength and perseverance. He taught me a lot about myself. I'm going to go back to school, and one day I hope I will work in medical research. Maybe someday someone will thank me for helping to save their lives."
Mann's daughters, Kiara Mann, 6, and Renee Williams, 5, accompanied their mother to Fire Station No. 7 on Friday. She reconnected with the men who worked to help her son -- paramedic Mike Cline and firefighters James Gray, Craig MacDonald, Ralph Diamond and Mark Smith.
"I don't think people realize what you people take home with you," Mann said.
"Caring for people like you do takes more than training. It's a calling."
Mann's other son, Daniel, 1, stayed at home, out of the cold.
While the two girls climbed in the back of the firetruck for a short ride, Cindy Smith, firefighter Mark Smith's wife, wrapped her arms around Mann and encouraged her to return to school.
"You can do this," she said. "You have three good reasons to succeed."
Cline said the men did everything they could to save Fredrick's life, but it was not enough. Child deaths are especially difficult to deal with because so much potential is never realized, Cline said.
"I try not to take my work home with me, but it's calls like that that stick in your head and make you re-examine what you did and make sure that you did everything that you possibly could," he said.
"Every case we handle is a possible learning experience. Hopefully, it's calls like this that make us better for the next person we try to help."
Mitch Mitchell, 817-390-7752