By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor
Last Tuesday, Shinnston residents Danny and Debbi Minnix and family set out for Tuscaloosa, Alabama where their daughter Megan was to serve as maid of honor in the wedding of her good friend Sarah Spadafore, another Shinnston native.
The family intended to visit, see the sights, give their best wishes to the happy couple, and, according to the Jimmy Buffett song, enjoy some “Bama Breeze”. As it turned out, they did all that and more!
Sometimes, though, a pleasure trip will be accompanied by a little drama, and this trip was no exception. They saw some beautiful sights and spent time with Sarah, visiting the campus where she goes to medical school, studying to be an OB-GYN. They also checked out the Birmingham Botanical Gardens where both the wedding and reception were to be held.
On Saturday morning, the day of the wedding, the family had just finished breakfast and were waiting in the lobby area of their hotel for maid service to finish cleaning their rooms.
Danny said they were relaxing in the lobby, watching a little television and checking their cell phones. He noticed a young African-American boy get out of the elevator in his swimming trunks and head for the pool alone.
“I suppose that 15 or 20 minutes had elapsed … and for whatever reason I stood up and headed to the pool area. There was no one there except for this young boy, and I saw him floating in the pool at the deep end – not on top of the water and not on the bottom but about midway between the two. I walked over there and slashed some water to see if he moved or looked up, but he didn’t. I yelled for Debbi to come quickly and call 911, removed my cell phone from my pocket, and dove in – clothes and all,” he related.
What followed were some intense minutes that might have been perilously frightening for some; however, Danny had 20 years of experience as a volunteer firefighter and an EMT with the Shinnston Volunteer Fire Department and knew what to do. Debbi, now the Jail Administrator at Tygart Valley Regional Jail, was also at one time a trained EMT in Anmoore.
In fact, Danny noted, that is how they met – on a call in Shinnston attending a heart attack victim! So this was not the first time they had worked as a team to save a life.
Danny stated, “The child was absolutely limp and had no pulse, and I laid him on the deck of the pool, having no idea how long he might have been under. I still have no clue whether he tripped and fell in or if he had perhaps started in the shallow end and walked out that far until he could no longer touch the bottom.”
But, thankfully, Danny knew the procedure. He knew with a drowning patient, there was an immediate need to get the water out. He gave him a couple of rescue breaths and started CPR … followed by more breaths and chest compressions. He noticed the child blink his eyes and could hear a slight air movement, and the boy spit out a little water.
Debbi saw the sisters witnessing this and told them to go get their parents, and when they arrived, the mother was overwrought while the father got down on his knees, talking to the boy while Danny worked on him.
Finally the fire department showed up, got the child in a sitting position and then got him standing and he began expelling water all over the pool deck. They covered him with towels, loaded him into an ambulance and took him to Children’s Hospital in Birmingham.
Danny took a seat poolside when the paramedics first arrived and let them do their job. “I felt a little shaky – maybe it was just an adrenalin rush, I don’t know. I didn’t have time to think or be nervous,” he said. “I just went into action and was focused on the task at hand. It was what I had been trained to do. All I know is that something told me to go to the pool – perhaps it was divine intervention.”
The hotel manager asked Danny to prepare a written statement about what happened and asked for his room number. Hours later when they returned from the wedding festivities, they found a thank you letter from the hotel manager, who also informed them that their stay would be free of charge.
Word spread through the five-story hotel and the couple said that complete strangers were coming up to them, thanking them for their heroic deed saving the child’s life.
Danny said humbly, “I did what anyone would have done; I tried to help. I just happened to be the right person who happened to be in the right place at the right time. I had just been sitting there playing a game on my phone, and something told me to go to the pool. I’m sure it was a higher power that made me stand up and move.”
Having been a first responder for 20 years, Danny says it is a thankless job. “If someone thanks you, that’s great; and if they don’t, that’s fine too. You don’t do that type of thing for accolades or recognition; you just do it because it’s ‘in you’, and you’re doing something you feel called to do,” he added.
They checked later at the front desk to inquire about the boy and were told that he would probably be observed for a night or two in the hospital, but they did not think there was any brain damage and that he would likely fully recover.
This incident was the most serious drama during their trip. However, there was more! Apparently there was a slight miscommunication between the wedding planner, the caterer and the reception site …. and someone had forgotten the dinnerware and utensils. Once again, Danny went on a rescue mission, shopping hurriedly to find clear plates and silverware! Oh, and, the caterer left only half the food so several tables weren’t going to eat! This is when the bride’s mother and step-father took off in different directions to bring extra food in from a nearby Popeye’s!
“It ended well, though,” Danny said calmly. “We saw a lot of beautiful sights, the happy couple got married, we had a good time, and returned home safely.”
On a more serious note, however, Danny commented that there is a lesson to be learned here. “I don’t care if it is an ocean or a pond or a bathtub – don’t EVER let a child be alone near the water! And secondly, EVERYONE should know how to do CPR! It is not a difficult thing to learn to do and you don’t have to be a paramedic or an EMT. Once you know how to do it, it just kicks in when you’re needed, and it saves a lot of lives.”