Korean family grateful to teen for saving their drowning child
PYEONGTAEK, South Korea — One sunny day in August, Heather Budge dropped off her 13-year-old son, Adam, and a friend for an afternoon of fishing in the Jinwee River, about five minutes away from Osan Air Base.
Later, she drove back to get them and watched as a Korean man who’d been fishing broke suddenly from his spot and made a dash toward a nearby swimming hole.
Budge, 39, whose husband is a civilian contractor at Osan Air Base, saw three Korean boys struggling in the water. She later learned the boys were the fisherman’s two sons and their cousin.
“I could see three heads bobbing up and down,” she said. “It’s almost like things go in slow motion. You could tell he wasn’t going to get there in time so I told my son, ‘Go!’”
She’s a big believer in swimming proficiency, she said, and has made sure that her four children can swim well.
The man got two boys to safety but one of his sons had disappeared under about seven to eight feet of water.
Over the next seven or so minutes, Adam, an eighth-grader at the International Christian School in Pyeongtaek, made 10 to 15 dives.
“I swam straight to the bottom and was feeling around and I resurfaced, and I just breathed in a huge gulp of air and went back down,” he said. “It was really, really murky.”
He found the boy and brought him up.
The father and another fisherman began trying to resuscitate the boy, but neither seemed familiar with how to do it.
“I tell you, I never felt so helpless in my whole life because here I had two cell phones and I didn’t know how to call for help and I didn’t know how to tell them they were doing CPR wrong,” Heather Budge said.
The boy lay lifeless. An ambulance eventually arrived and took him away.
That night, a shaken Budge asked a friend from church, Jihyun Knudsen, to join her for a walk and mentioned she wished she could learn the boy’s condition and speak with his family.
“In a country this big, and not speaking the language, I figured, ‘No, we’ll never know the rest of the story,’” Budge said.
But two or three weeks later, Knudsen called with astonishing news: The mother of the boy Adam Budge brought to the surface is a friend of a friend.
Knudsen’s friend said the boy, first-grader Park Jung-hoon, had been unconscious for two days but had pulled through.
Later, Knudsen called the boy’s mother and learned the family was eager to be in contact with Adam’s family.
Jung-hoon’s family had contacted a South Korean radio outlet, which spread word that they were hoping to find the American family. The boy’s family also had considered hanging a banner outside the base’s main gate, Knudsen said.
The two families met for the first time last Friday, when the boy’s family had the Budges to dinner at a restaurant in Osan city.
“It was great,” Knudsen said. “[Jung-hoon] was just the cutest boy, so vibrant.”
Jung-hoon’s mother sent Heather Budge an e-mail, which Knudsen translated.
“In the letter she said she couldn’t sleep she was so happy,” Knudsen said. “And she said it was the happiest day of her life meeting these people who ‘gave a second life to my son.’ So they were very, very grateful.”