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Woman, man honored for saving drowning toddler

East Idaho Real Heroes

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REXBURG — Avery Ballard may only be three years old, but she still remembers what happened last summer.

She was with her family at Rexburg Rapids one July afternoon – their first trip to the pool in nearly three years.

“My cousin came to town and said, ‘Hey, why don’t you meet us,’ and we weren’t going to go but at the last minute, we decided to,” recalls Stephanie Ballard, Avery’s mother.

At the pool, Avery’s life jacket kept falling off so her mom took it off but kept a close eye on her in the kiddy area.

“My 12-year-old son wanted to take her on the little kids slide,” Ballard says. “He started to bring Avery back to me and thought I saw him. He motioned to Avery to go back to mom and he thought that I had seen him but I hadn’t so he took off with his friend.”

That’s when Ballard remembers hearing whistles, seeing people get out of the pool and her son rushing over.

“He was pretty emotional and he said, ‘Mom, it’s Avery. Mom, it’s Avery,'” says Ballard. “I didn’t know what he was talking about so I said, ‘What’s Avery? What’s Avery?'”

Like the Ballards, Dr. Nicholas Pearson hadn’t planned to be at the pool that day either. But the orthopedic surgeon got off early and met with up with his family at the last minute.

“For whatever reason, I turned around and saw this little girl face down in the water,” Pearson says. “I grabbed her and took her to the side and yelled for help. Her color was completely gone. She was blue ashen and just lifeless.”

During the commotion, Enid Jacobson happened to be walking by.

“I wasn’t going to go swimming that day,” Jacobson says.

Jacboson is CPR certified and told Pearson she could help. Everything was happening so fast and Ballard was in shock.

“I used to be a CNA and I was trained in CPR but I just thought, ‘What do I do? What do I do?’ I just froze,” she says.

Jacobson began chest compressions and Pearson made sure paramedics were on the way as he tried to calm Ballard. Less than a minute later, Avery’s eyes shot open and she started to cry.

“It was a breath of fresh air – that’s for sure,” Pearson says, holding back tears. “It was a good thing to hear her crying.”

Jacobson recalls, “I remember telling Stephanie she’s breathing, her mouth is pink, her eyes are open and about that time, a first responder asked, ‘Can you tell me your name?’ and she said her name – Avery.”

Avery spent one night in Madison Memorial Hospital for observation but has been just fine ever since. She now always wears her life jacket and her family has made sure to meet up with Jacobson and Pearson since then.

The Ballards are thankful Jacobson knew CPR and say this is a lesson for everyone to get certified because you’ll never know when you’ll need to use it.

“I’m so glad I have that training,” Jacobson says. “I’m going to keep it up because you want to be prepared for situations like that and know you could help if needed.”

Ballard adds, “If they hadn’t been where they were, if they hadn’t done exactly what they did, she could either not be there or she could not be who she is and that would have changed everything for us.”

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