When Michael Patterson saw a young girl struggling to stay above water in a creek in Rome, Georgia, on June 8, he dove in to save her. Patterson was gravely injured in the course of his heroics, WSB-TV reports.
The girl, 4-year-old Javea, was able to be resuscitated. But Patterson became paralyzed from the chest down during the dive.
Carlissa Jones, Javea's mother, described Patterson's brave but tragic dive. From WSB-TV.com:
"He jumped in head first and after I grabbed her, I looked back and he was floating on top of the water," Jones said.
Though the water in the river was moving fast, the stream bed was very shallow and rocky. Patterson broke his neck the moment he hit the water.
Ambulance workers rushed Patterson to the hospital where he continues to rest in the intensive care unit.
WSB-TV spoke with Patterson's mother, Vicki Jones, who says her son is struggling to understand the level of his injuries. Her son, who works in construction, does not have health insurance.
Patterson's dive marked the second time in as many weeks that he stepped in to save a life, according to The Cedartown Standard. Two weeks ago, Patterson and another man pulled a truck driver from his cab after it had been hit and caught fire.
"He said he did what he thought, what he hoped anyone else would have done for him. That's not a very common thing anymore, for anyone to care about someone they don't know," his mother told WSB-TV.com
Friends of Patterson have set up a fund at a local bank. Supporters also created a Facebook page with updates about Patterson's condition.