COLUMBUS, Ohio – One minute is not a long time.
In that time, a person takes between eight and 16 resting breaths.
For Mary Giedeman, one minute was enough time to realize her 2-year-old daughter was missing from their Grove City, Ohio, home.
For off-duty Columbus police officer Brian Wilson, it was enough time to perform life-saving CPR on Giedeman’s daughter, Carmella, whose lifeless body had been removed from her home’s backyard pool.
On June 19, Giedeman had just let her dog out to relieve itself in the backyard and began working in the kitchen when she quickly noticed an eerie silence.
Carmella is normally a quiet child, Giedeman said, but the house was just too quiet. She immediately began searching for her daughter.
Giedeman noticed a slice of evening light peeking through the back door she had just let her dog through and realized she must have not closed it fully when returning.
Running out the door, she leapt onto the wooden deck that surrounded the home’s above-ground swimming pool.
There was Carmella, face down in the water.
Giedeman dove into the cold water, scooping out Carmella and placing her on the deck.
But she didn’t know what to do next. She didn’t know how to perform CPR, and Carmella’s father, Stephen Lopez, was in Cleveland for the night, visiting friends.
Giedeman felt helpless. So she screamed for help as loud as she could, over and over and over.
At that exact moment — five houses down — Wilson was getting out of the car after returning home from a daylong canoeing trip with his family.
“He was an angel sent to us,” Giedeman said later.
Wilson heard Giedeman’s screams. The off-duty officer and his wife, Holly, ran toward the cries for help. They discovered Carmella and Giedeman on the deck.
Wilson said Carmella’s face and lips were blue, and he couldn’t feel a pulse. He immediately began performing CPR.
The officer of nearly 26 years said he’s performed CPR a few times before, but never on a young child. He said he couldn’t have been performing CPR for more than a minute before medics arrived, but it felt like an eternity.
Looking back, Wilson said he wasn’t sure if Carmella would live. But that didn’t stop him from doing everything he could to save her.
“At one point,” he said, “I felt I was doing it more for mom.”
“It was emotional,” Wilson said. “I have kids of my own.”
While Wilson worked to save Carmella, Giedeman was consoled by Holly. A myriad of thoughts raced through Giedeman’s head while her daughter’s life was on the line.
“My heart just broke,” she said. “I felt like a failure.”
Over and over again, Giedeman prayed to God, asking him to “take me over her.”
Finally, Carmella vomited and began taking shallow breaths.
The medics arrived and began conducting their own work to save Carmella, but one thing was clear.
“She would not be here if it weren’t for him,” Giedeman said.
Carmella spent two nights at Nationwide Children’s Hospital for observation, but because of Wilson’s quick action, she recovered completely.
Lopez and Giedeman felt compelled to honor the man who saved their family. The couple invited Officer Wilson and his family to their home to thank them in person. Tears were shed. Hugs were shared. Gratitude was paramount.
“I’m just happy to see she was doing so much better in such a short time,” Wilson said.
Wilson, described by a member of the community as humble to a fault, shrugged off the title of hero.
“Obviously, I chose my profession because I want to help people,” he said.
But for Lopez, Giedeman and Carmella, Wilson did more than just help.
“He didn’t just save her life,” Lopez said. “He saved all of us.”