Karen Rawls
July 2019
RN, Surgery Unit Manager
Surgery Unit
Bradley County Medical Center
United States




At an RV park in Hot Springs, while visiting with friends, I witnessed a life-changing event. We were located near the local swimming pool when a commotion behind us took place. A teenager and woman, Karen Rawls, pulled a blue lifeless body out of the pool. My friends and I were witnessing the drowning of a child approximately 3.5 years old. Karen started rolling the child around to expel the water that had been consumed. The mother took the boy from Karen and started rocking him, not knowing what else to do. I heard Karen calmly with confidence tell the mom, "I've got this, I'm a nurse." I have never; and don't know that I ever will again witness a mother just give a child in distress up that willingly.
My friend had training as a fireman EMT and asked if he could help with the CPR. Karen replied, "We need to get some water out of him before we do CPR." There were several other children around and my wife and one of our friends helped collect the children to keep them occupied. I then walked back to my chair, sat down and said a quick prayer. Afterward, I watched Karen administer CPR to a very blue lifeless body. When the child was choking and trying to expel the contents, Karen never wavered. She continued thru this event that seemed like it was lasting forever.
I heard Karen encourage the child as he came in and out a couple of times, each time I would see movement then he would stop. This was an emotional rollercoaster for everyone witnessing this event, yet again, Karen never wavered. She continued always telling the child to stay with her and to wake up. I know this must have only lasted about 3 minutes but in this very intense moment, time seemed to stop.
I then saw the lifeless body moving, first, a cough and then a gag, just a few more blows and he started crying. I never thought that would be such a welcoming sound. It wasn't until then, that Karen relinquished the child to a very anxious and upset mother. Just a short while after, the police and ambulance arrived and took the child and mother to the hospital. I walked back to my chair and finished my prayer with thanks. I then went to Karen to thank her and when I asked Karen if she knew the boy's name, she wasn't really sure, how fitting is that. Karen never even asked for the child's name, she just did the right thing. I don't know if the EMTs ever talked to Karen, so credit was never issued and of course, she never asked for it.
I know that many of you may know more explicit details that I left out, but this event has changed everyone that witnessed it. From giving thanks to a having a different kind of respect for pools and to life itself. I often drink coffee and spend time with others that were at the scene and it has changed all of our lives. I don't know the overall outcome of the child; however, I know that without Karen's presence and her being responsive with her training he would have expired right there on the spot. I can only hope that whatever damage this event may have caused, is short served with him.
Thanks to Karen and her life-saving skills, she reacted to a life-threatening situation and took complete control. Karen's actions were of a servant; how is one supposed to say thank you to that? Please know she showed courage and responsibility in the face of a horrific challenge.