Landscaper hailed as a hero after reviving near-drowned Windham toddler
By APRIL GUILMET Union Leader Correspondent
Nashua resident Matt Pulomena, a landscaper with Design Works in Hudson, was hard at work in a Windham backyard Wednesday morning when he heard a loud cry for help. His quick thinking and CPR skills are credited with saving the life of a 3-year-old boy who nearly drowned after falling into the family's swimming pool. (APRIL GUILMET)
WINDHAM — Landscaper Matt Pulomena never imagined his firefighter training would come in handy in the course of his current career path.
But Pulomena's day took an unexpected turn late Wednesday morning when he was laying patio stones with his landscaping crew in a Windham backyard and heard a frantic cry for help coming from next door.
"That's when I looked up and saw a woman yelling," the Nashua man said. "I saw her son's lifeless body draped over her shoulder."
Instinct and adrenaline kicked in as Pulomena scrambled over a chainlink fence and into the backyard of the frantic young mother, her unresponsive 3-year-old son clutched in her arms as she emerged from the aboveground swimming pool.
"He was completely blue, he wasn't breathing and he had no pulse," Pulomena recalled. "So I started doing CPR."
Foreman Bill Dufault and fellow crew members from Design Works Landscaping in Hudson were all hard at work when they heard a large splash coming from next door.
"At first we just thought it was some kids playing around," he said. "Then everything happened so fast."
"We all kind of froze up for a moment, then next thing you know, there goes Matt up over that fence," Dufault added.
After several minutes and several CPR sessions passed, Pulomena said the color began returning to the toddler's face and he began coughing up water.
Local emergency crews, who'd received a 911 call just moments earlier, arrived at the 6 Sharon Road home shortly after 11 a.m., Windham Fire Chief Tom McPherson said. According to local assessment records, Ronald and Kathryn St. Laurent own the property at 6 Sharon Road.
"The operators heard someone screaming on the other end of the line," McPherson added, noting that is unclear how the toddler fell into the water.
Windham fire crews continued with advanced treatment on the little boy, who was breathing on his own by the time they arrived.
McPherson said the victim was breathing but unresponsive when he was transported to Parkland Medical Center in Derry. He was later transferred to Elliot Hospital in Manchester for further care and treatment.
No one answered the door at the Sharon Road home yesterday afternoon.
Resident Patricia Mack, who lives on the corner of Rock Pond and Sharon roads, said she didn't know the victim or his family but described the neighborhood as "extremely family oriented," noting that it's not uncommon to hear the laughter of children or the sounds of happy splashing wafting through the screens on a hot summer evening.
Pulomena, who trained onsite with the Belmont Fire Department for two years prior to working as a landscaper, said he was simply glad he was able to be in the right place at the right time.
"It was pretty awesome," he added.
Though he doesn't have any children of his own, Pulomena said his girlfriend has a young son, and he'd hope someone would do the same thing for them in an emergency.
"I can't imagine what those poor parents are feeling right now," he said.
Though he's only worked with the company for three months, Dufault said Pulomena certainly managed to distinguish himself by coming through in times of crisis.
"As far as I know, Matt is the only one on board who's had this type of training," Dufault said. "But after what we saw today, it definitely makes you think. Because no one else here knew what to do."