Since Dec. 19, Donna Pearson has wondered about the firefighter who arrived seconds after her daughter, Onicka Patterson, was seriously injured in a car crash.
The 6-year-old wasn’t breathing, and the off-duty firefighter provided her with treatment that doctors say saved her life.
Since December, Pearson has thought of the firefighter as an “angel” and “the man who saved my daughter’s life.”
Last week, Pearson learned the identity of the man.
He’s Longboat Key firefighter/paramedic Brian Kolesa, who has worked for the department since November 2010.
On Monday, July 29, Kolesa embraced Pearson and her daughter as family members applauded and captured the reunion on camera.
And Kolesa filled in the details about Dec. 19 — the day when, as he put it, he “was definitely in the wrong place at the right time.”
Kolesa was driving to work when he saw a bad car accident at the intersection of Cortez Road and 75th Street in Bradenton and stopped to help. Manatee Fire Rescue hadn’t reached the scene yet.
Onicka wasn’t breathing, and Kolesa couldn’t find a pulse.
He performed CPR, and Onicka began breathing again spontaneously. Kolesa sustained her C-spine until Manatee firefighters arrived. They took over the girl’s care until she was flown to All Children’s Hospital, in St. Petersburg.
Onicka suffered three strokes and now undergoes physical therapy several times a week at Blake Medical Center, in Bradenton, to regain control of her right arm, according to Pearson. She wears a brace on her right leg but can now run around and play.
Longboat Key Fire Rescue detailed the rescue and reunion plans on its Facebook page Friday. Three days later, the story had gotten more than 1,600 “likes.” It reached more than 36,000 people, according to a prepared statement.
At the reunion, Kolesa knelt down for a moment with Onicka: “Whatever dreams you have, I hope they come true. I hope you continue to fight for everything.”