Quick thinking saves woman from drowning

Sydney Hughes, left, and her sister Maddie kiss their mother Michelle Hughes. A recently certified lifeguard, Sydney used her training to rescue her mother.

MADISON — A young Dorchester woman found herself in the unexpected position of saving her mother’s life last Friday, May 29. The two had been out on their recreational boat when back at the dock Michelle Hughes lost her balance, fell backwards from the pier and hit the water headfirst.

Michelle’s daughter Sydney Hughes, 15, and a recently certified lifeguard, reached down into the water to catch her mother’s hand. Holding her afloat, Sydney quickly dialed 911, but when she was unable to help her mother back onto the dock and saw that she was having difficulty breathing, she knew she had to take action.

As an asthmatic, Michelle Hughes’ breathing was further complicated, said her mother Linda Dawson.

Sydney didn’t hesitate to jump into the water, Dawson said. Sydney saw her mother’s lips turning blue and reached for the inhaler in the waist pouch her mother wore. Dumping water from the inhaler she was able to help Michelle inhale some of her medication. By that time, due to Michelle’s difficulty breathing, she was starting to become resistant to help, and Sydney began swimming with her up to the boat ramp.

Sydney, who will be a junior this fall at Cambridge South Dorchester became certified as a lifeguard this past winter. “I know my mom is a strong swimmer, so this accident really made me realize how quickly even a good swimmer can become compromised,” Sydney said.

Two first responders soon joined the rescue and Michelle was transported to the hospital for evaluation of head and neck injuries and to receive fluids.

“All I’ve done is cry because my little girl saved my life,” Michelle said. “I was drowning.”

Michelle, a nurse for Shore Regional Health System was released and cleared to go back to work shortly after the incident.

“Sydney never panicked and kept calm,” said her grandmother, “she doesn’t think she did any thing special.”

Sydney competes yearly in the boat docking competitions, and has been since she was about eight years old. “We call her the boat docking princess,” said her grandmother.

But Sydney laughs it off. “I’m not a princess,” she said.

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