SPRING HILL — For Carlos Gonzalez, it was a simple twist of fate — and warm weather — that helped him become a lifesaver.
Gonzalez was working hard on Nov. 25 at his Spring Hill landscaping business, and he was thirsty. His wife, Jane, had called to remind him there were two bottles of cold water waiting for him at his house on nearby Shadydale Drive.
As he swung his work truck onto Gainesboro Avenue, he saw Miriam Pabon hysterically waving her hands. Gonzalez pulled over and ran to where Pabon's 19-month-old son Patricio lay unconscious and not breathing on the ground beside her.
From there, Gonzalez doesn't remember much about the incident. His instinct, coupled with the brief round of CPR training he learned while in the Army, seemed to take over.
"Things went by so fast," Gonzalez, 49, recalled. "Something inside of me just told me what I needed to do."
Patricio had wandered through an open door at his home and fallen into the family pool a few minutes earlier. Another family member's attempts at CPR had proven futile. Though Gonzalez understood the basics of the lifesaving maneuver, he had never performed CPR on a living person.
A few minutes later when Patricio took his first breath, it was as if a miracle had occurred.
"I breathed a huge sigh of relief," Gonzalez said. "I said to myself, 'We made it.' "
Paramedics arrived a few minutes later and took over. Patricio, who was flown to St. Joseph's hospital in Tampa for overnight observation, is fine.
On Wednesday, Gonzalez appeared before the Spring Hill Fire Rescue commission to receive a commendation for his heroic act. Surrounded by his wife and daughters, as well as Patricio and members of his family, he listened as Spring Hill fire Capt. James Billotte told the audience how Gonzalez's actions had assured the baby's survival.
"He bought us precious minutes," Billotte said. "And as you can see, that can make all the difference in the world."
Gonzalez said he is happy to remain a modest hero who is thankful to have been in the right place at the right time. But he insists the credit for saving Patricio doesn't belong to him alone.
"God answered a prayer that day," Gonzalez offered in a quiet voice. "He put me there at that moment."
Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or firstname.lastname@example.org