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It was no stranger she saved

A nurse helps flip over a pickup and resuscitates a 17-year-old, without recognizing him as her son's childhood friend.

By MIKE BRASSFIELD

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 2, 2000


ST. PETERSBURG -- Diane Ludes hadn't seen Christian Gilman in years. He'd been one of her young son's friends, and he used to spend the night at the Ludeses' house.

Ludes was driving on 62nd Avenue NE Saturday afternoon when she saw a pickup truck upside down in a retention pond. She and other bystanders flipped over the pickup and dragged a mud-encrusted young man from the pond.

He looked dead. His skin was blue. He wasn't breathing. Ludes, a veteran emergency room nurse and CPR trainer, applied mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and brought him back. Later, she got a phone call from Bayfront Medical Center and learned who the young stranger was.

It was Christian Gilman, now 17 years old.

"He used to be my neighbor. He lived three doors away. He used to spend the night over here," Ludes said Saturday night, still trying to take it all in. "I can't believe it was Christian."

Gilman's pickup ran off 62nd Avenue about 4 p.m. near 16th Street N, not far from Mangrove Bay Municipal Golf Course. Gilman is a diabetic, and authorities were investigating whether he had suffered some complication of the disease just before the accident.

Bystanders had rescued Gilman from beneath the pickup by the time firefighters arrived.

"He was already out on the side of the bank and was breathing and talking when we got there," said St. Petersburg Fire Lt. Rick LePrevost. An ambulance took Gilman to Bayfront, where he was admitted for the night.

Ludes, a nurse at All Children's Hospital, was driving to pick up her dog from the groomer when she happened upon the accident.

"People were just kind of standing there. Something told me to stop," she recalled. "I said, "We need to get this truck flipped over right now.' "

Several people joined in, standing elbow-to-elbow and lifting. Then they saw Gilman, covered in mud, his skin blue from lack of oxygen.

"This boy had been completely submerged. He was blue. He was bluer than blue," Ludes said. "I cleared out his airway and started mouth-to-mouth."

She continued for several breaths. Then several more breaths. Finally, Gilman coughed up water and opened his eyes.

Ludes still didn't recognize him.

Later, an emergency-room doctor called her to ask what had happened. Then the doctor put Gilman's mother on the phone to thank Ludes.

"I know your voice," the woman told Ludes. "You're Jeremy's mom."

Then it clicked: Ludes knew who the young man was.

"He stayed in my house," Ludes said. "I kept his insulin in my refrigerator.

"It was just a weird twist of fate that something told me to stop."

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