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Spring Hill woman a hero among heroes
Clearwater Fire and Rescue honor her for plucking a struggling swimmer from the water.
By KAMEEL STANLEY
Published June 23, 2007
CLEARWATER - Patricia Cummings doesn't think of herself as a hero. In fact, she doesn't even like the word.
But that doesn't matter to Pauline Tsoutsanis, whom Cummings pulled from the Intercoastal Waterway just under a month ago.
"She saved my life, " the 74-year-old Sand Key resident said. "I will never forget. She is my hero."
Cummings, a 37-year-old emergency room secretary from Spring Hill, along with New Port Richey resident Ellie Elmore, were recognized as such Friday morning when they received Certificates of Commemoration from Clearwater Fire and Rescue.
Elmore, a 29-year-old teacher, was honored for her part in trying to save 10-year-old Kayria Pride, who died May 6 after being swept into a strong undertow at Clearwater Beach.
The ceremony was emotional for all of the women, who said their lives have been changed forever by the experiences.
"We feel your commitment and actions simply cannot go unnoticed, " said Elizabeth Daly-Watts, the fire department's public information officer. "It's a part of what we do every day as a fire service; but as a citizen, it is a choice."
On May 28, Cummings was sunbathing with her children on the gulf side of Clearwater Beach when she heard a cry for help about 12:30 p.m.
Andrew Tsoutsanis had lost sight of his wife, Pauline, who minutes earlier had said she was not feeling well.
Cummings, whose job at Community Hospital in New Port Richey requires her to be trained in first aid, rushed to the water and pulled out the woman, who by then had a bluish color.
Cummings performed CPR until paramedics arrived.
"I don't think at that moment I was thinking about being a hero, " she said. "I was thinking about saving someone's life."
Instinct also was what prompted Elmore to begin mouth-to-mouth on Kayria.
"She was somebody's sweet baby, " she said. "How can you not help?"
Elmore had been on the beach that day with a group of church friends and started praying while rescuers searched for the girl from St. Petersburg.
When someone spotted Kayria's pink and green bathing suit more than two hours after she disappeared, Elmore was one of the first people to reach her.
Old CPR moves she'd learned in junior high kicked in, and Elmore breathed air into Kayria's mouth while a rescue worker pumped her chest.
Like Cummings and Pauline Tsoutsanis, Elmore said she now shares a special bond with the person she tried to save.
A wrinkled paper program from Kayria's funeral stays in her purse. She often sees the little girl's eyes in her mind. And after the ceremony Friday, she planned to visit the 10-year-old's grave site.
"Even though I only held her in my arms for a moment, she will forever hold a very special place in my life, " she said.