LARGO — For some people, the sight of an abandoned walker on the sidewalk near a pond might not signal danger.
To Dennis and Sandra Melucci, it did. The thought that someone might need help prompted them to stop and check out the situation. On May 29, that willingness to take a moment out of their busy day saved a woman's life.
And this month, Largo Fire Rescue recognized the couple for their life-saving decision.
They were on their way to the Largo Community Center to work out at the gym, said Dennis, 56.
"We were on Alternate Keene Road by the Palms of Largo, and between two buildings there's a pond," he said. "It was raining when we drove by, and I saw a walker by itself, nobody around. I looked at my wife and said, 'I can't imagine anybody that needs a walker leaving it and walking back to the building.' ''
Dennis told Sandra he wanted to turn the truck around, just to be sure no one needed help.
When he parked the truck, he told his wife he'd take a take a quick look to make sure no one was in the pond. He added that if he needed help, he would yell for her to call 911.
"I walk down toward the water, and here's a lady face down in the pond," Dennis said. "To see something like that, an elderly person in the pond and the walker up there — somehow she fell down there. So, I yell for my wife to call 911 and I jump in."
The woman was a little more than chest-deep in the water, according to Dennis, and as he grabbed her arm to pull her closer, some of her skin sloughed off. Later he found out the woman had fragile skin to begin with, but at that time, he didn't know how long she may have been floating.
"I roll her over, get her to the bank, and start CPR," Dennis said. "She's blue. Then I get a little water out of her and I roll her onto her side, then on her back. She spit up water and finally gasped for air. Just about that time, the Largo fire department showed up."
Dennis hadn't been able to fully pull the woman onto the steep bank. He supported her head and shoulders and kept her from sliding back down into the water. The fire department rescuers rushed into the pond.
"They put the backboard into the water and got her up on it," he said. "It took four guys to get her out of there."
EMS Chief Shelby Willis said the woman regained consciousness on the way to the hospital. Said fire district Chief Kelly Callahan, "If it were not for the actions of Mr. and Mrs. Melucci, the situation would have been grave."
A day after the rescue, the woman's adult daughter called Dennis to thank him and Sandra for saving her mother.
The woman they saved, a resident of Royal Palms in the Palms of Largo community, is back at Royal Palms recuperating and did not want her name published. Dennis learned that the woman had slipped while walking on the wet grass and tumbled into the pond.
Even though Dennis learned CPR in the Army almost 35 years ago, he had never used it until that day. At the Sept. 4 Largo City Commission meeting in City Hall, Willis presented Dennis and Sandra with Certificates of Achievement for Meritorious Service.
"I've never gotten an award for anything like that before," said Dennis, who is proud to be acknowledged for what he did.
"It doesn't hurt, if you think someone may be in distress or something doesn't look right, to take time to check it out, be a bit more vigilant.
"I just did what I could to help, and the end result was good," he said. "The lady is alive and all I can say is, to bring that lady back is just the most gratifying feeling."