Red Cross honors man for saving child’s life

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 19, 2009

NATCHEZ — Tucked away inside Michael Chapman’s wallet, behind his driver’s license and business cards is a picture of a 4-year-old boy, who before June 7 had no connection to Chapman.

But in the last 11 days, 4-year-old Ashton Williams and Chapman have developed a bond that will connect the two forever. Chapman rescued Ashton from the bottom of he pool at Crosspoint Church in Natchez and was honored for his actions at the annual Red Cross board meeting with a life-saving award.

On June 7, Chapman, a Red Cross certified lifeguard, was volunteering his time and training as a lifeguard at the church where Ashton was swimming after the Sunday service.

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The church has two pools and Ashton was assigned to small pool with water not more than 18 inches high. But curiosity got the best of Ashton, and he ventured over to the deeper pool and jumped in. But Ashton never came up.

“He wanted to jump in and swim with the big kids,” Chapman said. “He jumped in and went straight to the bottom. That only took two to three seconds.”

Seeing Ashton at the bottom of the pool, Chapman dove in, reacting more than thinking at that point, he said. When Chapman got Ashton out of the pool, he found no pulse and Ashton wasn’t breathing, so Chapman began CPR and continued for three minutes before Ashton began to revive.

“I saw his eye come half open and I said ‘Come on boy,’” Chapman said. “Then he gave me about a half cough and few seconds later he was wailing crying.”

And while the memories of that day will likely never fade, Chapman carries Ashton’s picture as a reminder of the decisions he made.

“Life is all about decisions,” he said. “I made a decision to get the lifeguard and CPR training, and I’m hoping this will urge other people to get the same training. You never know when you will be needed.”

Chapman is credited with saving Ashton’s life, but Tannette Williams said he saved her life, too. Tannette, the mother of a 9-year-old daughter as well as Ashton said her children are her life.

“I have a boy and a girl and that’s it for me,” she said. “My kids are my life. When he saved Ashton, he saved a part of me because I wouldn’t know what to do without him.”

Ashton was airlifted from Natchez Community Hospital to a Jackson hospital, where he spent one day in the Intensive Care Unit, but now he has returned to his normal, active childhood and has no long-term effects from his time under water, not even a fear of water.

Ashton had been scheduled to take swimming lesson less than two weeks after the accident, but because of hospital stay, the swimming lessons have been moved to July.

“He still wants to swim with the big kids,” Tannette said. “He said ‘I remember touching the bottom but I don’t remember much else until the man had me.’”

And Tannette will be forever thankful that Chapman was there to help her so.

“It’s a blessing,” she said. “Luck had nothing to do with it. It was by the grace of God that he was there. The Bible says God works through men and that day he worked through Michael.”