Delavan Fire Department Captain Tom O’Neill is hugged and thanked by Tom and Rita Cubert, the parents of a 3-year-old he saved by performing CPR at Sunset Pool in Elkhorn last summer. He was awarded the Medal of Valor at the department’s banquet.

Delavan FD captain given Medal of Valor for saving girl’s life

By Heather Ruenz

Staff Writer

June 23, 2018 is a day Delavan Fire Department Captain Tom O’Neill will never forget.

On that day he did something not many people can say they have done. He saved a life.

“I was at a kids’ birthday party, at the pool at Sunset Park (in Elkhorn) and heard someone screaming about a child being in the bottom of the pool,” O’Neill recalled.

The girl was pulled up and when they got her out of the water she wasn’t breathing so O’Neill performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

“Eventually she coughed and then started breathing. She was 3 years old – the same age as my daughter. They’re both 4 years old now and will actually go to school together,” O’Neill said.

He said there were a lot of people at the pool at that time and the lifeguards did a great job at getting everyone out of the pool and out of the way and calling 911.

By the time the ambulance arrived, the little girl’s mom was holding her.

“Besides getting her back, the best news was that she had no neurological deficits at all, like it never happened,” O’Neill said.

While it wasn’t his first save – O’Neill is an RN-Paramedic and firefighter and works as a trauma nurse at Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee – it was special nonetheless and O’Neill is just thankful he was able to help.

“With it being a little kid and I didn’t have my bag of goodies with me because we were at the pool so it was just me and my hands and my mouth. It was all about timing and being in the right place and just by breathing and a little resuscitation I brought her back to life,” he said.

He estimates it was 10 minutes or so before EMS arrived on the scene and said if the girl hadn’t received CPR as soon as she did, her chances of survival would have been slim, if at all.

“This is a good reminder that people should learn CPR because you never know when or where it might be needed,” O’Neill said.

He was awarded the Medal of Valor by the City of Delavan Fire Department at the annual awards banquet held recently.

Tom and Rita Cubert, the parents of the girl he saved, came to the awards banquet and helped present the medal to O’Neill.

“That made it even more special, that they were part of it,” he said.


1 Comment

  1. Tom Nangle says:

    They walk among us everywhere, unnoticed mostly, but they leave their mark on us… like Capt. Tom O‘Neill of the Delavan Fire Dept., who dragged a little child back across the line from death to life again. People like him must make God grin. Thank you, sir.

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