Wellington boy who saved a life wins award: He learned CPR from watching ‘Stranger Things’

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A quick-thinking 12-year-old boy from Wellington is being lauded as a hero, with his efforts winning him an award Thursday for saving his behavioral therapist from drowning.

Austen MacMillan pulled the adult out of the water and administered CPR, after learning to do so from watching the popular Netflix show “Stranger Things.” Austen was among the recipients of the Samaritan Medal during an awards ceremony presented by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.

Austen and his behavioral therapist, Jason Piquette, 30, were swimming in the MacMillans’ family pool on Sept. 4, an activity the two still do together often. That day, they were trying to see how long they could hold their breaths underwater.

At one point while Piquette was underwater, he lost consciousness, prompting Austen to save him using CPR.

Piquette said he was told he should be dead. And with a baby on the way, Piquette and his wife, Josie Piquette, are quite grateful for Austen’s swift action.

“He’s (Austen) my hero,” Josie Piquette said.

Austen is not quick to boast about his rescue, saying he felt happy but also “terrified” to be in front of hundreds of people at the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office main office in West Palm Beach for the awards ceremony. But Jason Piquette said he is overjoyed Austen is receiving so much recognition and praise.

“He downplays it,” Piquette said. “I wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for him. … I think this kind of thing is something that will stick with him for his whole life.”

Austen’s self worth and image has also grown since, Piquette said, and the pair’s relationship strengthened because of the incident, too, as the trust between the two has increased.

“For his future, even when I’m not working with him anymore, I think this will be a positive thing for him when it could have been so negative,” he said.

Piquette said he has been working with Austen for almost 30 hours a week for nearly three years, making them “almost like family.”

While Austen used CPR techniques he learned from a hit fantasy TV show about monsters and horror to help save Piquette’s life, Austen has since become CPR certified.

“I’m more excited to help people out,” he said.

Austen’s mother, Christina MacMillan, said the Village of Wellington now wants to honor her son’s efforts, too.

Austen MacMillan was not the only Samaritan Medal recipient Thursday whose heroism involved a pool.

In April, 7-year-old Carter Santelmo and his family, all from New York, were visiting family in Boca Raton when some of them decided to go for a swim.

Carter’s brother, 4-year-old Maxwell, got out of the pool, took off his flotation swim vest and jumped back in. But Maxwell could not swim without assistance, so he began to drown.

Carter saw his little brother struggling, so he pulled Maxwell out of the pool and called for help, resulting in the boys’ aunt performing CPR on Maxwell until he regained consciousness. He was taken to the hospital but left without any permanent injuries.

The Santelmo boys’ parents, Beth and Carl, put Maxwell in swimming lessons after the incident and are eternally grateful for their eldest son’s attentiveness.

“He’s a superhero without the cape,” Carl Santelmo said.

After Carter acquired his award Thursday morning, he walked back to his family where Maxwell, the little brother he helped save, eagerly waited to tackle his big brother in a hug.

Two other people also received Samaritan Medals on Thursday: Jean Dor and Luis Rodriguez, both of whom were bystanders who assisted sheriff’s deputies during a violent fight in Royal Palm Beach.

Nine people within PBSO received lifesaving medals, and an array of other awards were also given out during Thursday’s ceremony, including “Civilian Employee of the Year,” “Meritorious Combat Medal” and “Combat Action Medal.”