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September 1, 1998

An 8-year-old Mesa girl was frightened when she saw the lifeless body of her little brother at the bottom of a swimming pool, but Stephanie Sprague didn't panic.

"I grabbed my brother and came up " said Stephanie a third-grader at Holmes Elementary School. "I was holding onto my brother with one hand and the volleyball net with the other."

Johnathon "CIay" Terry, 2, had turned blue and was not breathing as Stephanie called her mother, Chris Terry, for help.

"I was really, really scared," Stephanie said. "I thought my brother was dead."

But Terry, a nurse assistant at Desert Samaritan Medical Center, performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation until Mesa firefighters arrived shortly after 8 p.m. Sunday in the 1000 block of West Tenth Avenue.

Thanks to Stephanie's teamwork with her mother, Clay started breathing again on his own, said Battalion Chief Gil Damiani of the Mesa Fire Department.

Firefighters also performed CPR on Clay, who was released from the hospital Monday morning.

A couple of hours later, Clay was running around, playing with a basketball as if nothing had happened.

"I thought I had lost him," Terry said. "When he took that first breath, I don't think I ever heard a sound so good."

Although thankful for the incidents happy outcome, Terry said she learned a hard lesson about the need to constantly supervise children around water.

The mother said she had made a big mistake by losing track of Clay while she went inside to use the bathroom. She had taken Clay's flotation devices off and thought he also was inside.

The Terry family was visiting at the home of a friend, who had invited them to use the pool.

"For one, don't ever take your eyes off the kids, not even for a second," Terry said.

The thankful mother joined with firefighters Monday in praise for Stephanie's speedy response to a life-threatening crisis.

"She's my little hero. She's a wonderful little girl " Terry said. 'I started crying and told her how proud I was of her. He (Clay) wouldn't be here without her."

Stephanie handled newspaper, television and radio interviews as if she was running for president. She beamed into the cameras.

When asked whether she was a hero, Stephanie smiled and simply said, "yeah."

Damiani presented Stephanie a lifesaving certificate, a plastic junior firefighter helmet, a toy fire truck and a ride around her Mesa apartment complex a real fire truck.

Sadly, other Mesa families have not been as fortunate as the Terrys this year.

Mesa has recorded four drownings and nine near drownings.

Ten incidents have involved children under 6 years old, including three of the four fatalities.

Although the city had 17 near drownings last year, there were no fatalities.

"Everything was right for him (Clay)," Damiani said. Terry "was extremely lucky to be able to hold him today."

Terry plans to make the most of her second chance with Clay.

"I won't take my eyes off him again," she said. "I'll probably be even more protective than I was before.

Reproduced with permission from:
The Arizona Republic
Byline: By Tim Walsh
©Copyright 1999 Arziona Republic

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