While Sarah Chard dreams of becoming a doctor, she never expected to save someone’s life before earning her high school diploma.
Yet that’s exactly what happened last month when Chard came to the rescue of Yan Lee, a neighbor who nearly drowned while trying to rescue her 4-year-old son from the same fate.
“I guess I’m just lucky that I learned CPR at school two months ago,” the rising junior at Appoquinimink High School said this week. “If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have known what to do at all.”
Sarah’s family and the Lees have lived on the same block in Brennan Estates for several years, so when Yan’s 7-year-old son Rick wanted to play in the Chard-Wilson’s pool with Sarah’s 7-year-old brother Dane, no one really minded if the younger Lee twins – Andy and Jason – tagged along.
“I had to work that day, so my only concern was that Sarah was going to be alone with these four young boys,” Sarah’s mom, Marla Chard-Wilson, said. “So I asked Mrs. Lee if she would mind coming over too, just to keep an eye on them. What I didn’t know at the time was that Mrs. Lee can’t swim.”
By all accounts, the morning of June 26 was rather uneventful as the boys played, Yan took the occasional dip with the aid of an inflatable tube and Sarah caught some rays.
As late morning turned to early afternoon, Sarah took a break to make her brother some lunch.
And it was at that moment that disaster struck.
While Sarah was inside, Jason Lee, the smaller of the twins, suddenly fell out of an inner tube into the pool’s 6-foot deep end and immediately began struggling to stay afloat.
“I saw him and just jumped in,” said Yan, who stands about 5’4”. “I tried to push him up to keep his head above water and that kept pushing me down. I knew that wasn’t the best way, but I’m his mother. I couldn’t watch him in the water and do nothing.”
Unaware that anything was wrong, the other boys continued playing in the shallow end of the pool. Meanwhile, Yan was quickly losing consciousness.
“Even though I was in the kitchen and didn’t really hear anything, I just suddenly knew something was wrong,” Sarah said. “I ran outside and the first thing I saw was Mrs. Lee face down in the water.”
Page 2 of 2 - After fishing Jason out of the pool, Sarah jumped in and began dragging Yan toward the shallow end, where she was better able to pull her onto the pool deck.
“I’m guessing she was unconscious three to five minutes because her lips were blue and although she was sort of coughing, her eyes didn’t open,” Sarah said. “So I grabbed my phone and called 911 while doing chest compressions like the school nurse [Debbie Larzelere] taught us in my allied health class.”
Although Yan had regained consciousness by the time paramedics arrived, she and Jason were taken to Christiana Hospital as a precaution.
Both mother and son were released a few hours later after being given a clean bill of health.
“We are very, very lucky that Sarah was there to save our lives,” Yan said. “I hope her school praises her for what she did and I want other people to learn from her. I don’t know what would have happened without her.”
Sarah’s mom said she’s also extremely proud of her daughter’s quick thinking.
“I’m just glad she paid attention in class that day,” she said of Sarah’s CPR lesson. “But I also think God and the angels were with her that day. We’re all just so thankful this turned out to be a story with a happy ending.”
Sarah, meanwhile, said she’s been staying humble about her new status as a lifesaver.
“I haven’t told too many people, but I’m definitely really proud of myself,” she said. “I think this experience has given me the confidence to be a pediatrician or a physical therapist, because now I know I can actually help people.”