Nine-year-old saves mother from drowning

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published August 24, 2011


Lucy Kollin is not a fan of the water.

Although she and her husband, Adam, own a boat and take it out on Lake St. Clair with their three children, Aaron, 9, Wendy, 7, and Alex, 5, she is not a strong swimmer and didn’t swim at all as a child growing up in China.

Several people in Jixi, the city in northern China she lived in, drowned in the local lake.

She explained that even experienced swimmers got stuck in the sticky bottom of that lake, and her parents didn’t allow her or her siblings to go into the water.

But that didn’t stop her from venturing into water over her head to check on her youngest son, who doesn’t know how to swim yet and had drifted into 8-foot-deep water on a floatation chair in her sister-in-law’s pool Aug. 14.

It was just after lunchtime, and Lucy was the only adult poolside. Her sister-in-law, Ruth Kaplan, and daughter Wendy were indoors, and her husband, Adam, was taking a nap inside.

Lucy managed to reach youngest son Alex safely, but then became overwhelmed at being in water over her head.

She went under, but couldn’t touch bottom to propel herself to the surface and couldn’t get her head above water. She started to take in water, and from under the water, she looked up to see Alex safely climb out of the flotation chair and get out of the pool.

“I can’t scare him,” is what Lucy thought, remembering all the drownings that happened in the lake when she was a child.

“I knew I was drowning,” she said, but she made a decision not to panic, resigned that she would die peacefully and not alarm her son.

Meanwhile, Aaron, a fourth-grader at Hill Elementary, had kept his eye on the situation. He grabbed his swimming goggles and swam to his mother.

“I thought it was weird that my mom was in the deep end,” said Aaron, who had learned to swim so he could use the water slide on vacation in Mexico over the holidays, Lucy said.

Aaron dove down, put his arm around his mother’s waist and pulled her up. Then he placed the flotation chair under Lucy’s arms, put his arm around her stomach and swam them to the shallows. She got out of the water, coughing, and her husband inexplicably awoke suddenly from his nap and immediately joined his family outside. When Adam arrived poolside, Lucy went inside without a word and vomited in the bathroom. It was only when Adam asked Aaron what had happened that he learned of his son’s heroic efforts.

“She gave me life,” Aaron told his father. “I would do anything for her.”