Mark Jordan, left, Nicky Cullen and Matthew Jordan sit on the playground equipment where Nicky almost died last month at Misawa Air Base, Japan.

Mark Jordan, left, Nicky Cullen and Matthew Jordan sit on the playground equipment where Nicky almost died last month at Misawa Air Base, Japan. (Jennifer Svan / S&S)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Air Force Capt. Maurice Cullen would rather not think about what almost happened.

It was Nov. 3, late in the day.

His 8-year-old daughter, Nicky, was dangling from her bicycle helmet, which was wedged in some playground equipment at Starfire Court playground.

Not able to free herself and unable to breathe, her life was in the hands of 7-year-old twins, Matthew and Mark Jordan, who were playing nearby.

“I don’t even want to think about it,” said Cullen of 35th Comptroller Squadron. “I can’t conceive how a 7-year-old could decide, ‘Well, everyone is gone, I better stay here.’ I would expect a 7-year-old to go get his mom.

“The right kid was there.”

The boys’ actions probably saved Nicky’s life.

Mark initially thought Nicky was playing. But she wasn’t moving, and when he approached, he saw she was drooling.

“When Mark said she was drooling, I got a little scared,” Matthew said Tuesday. “The other kids who were there ran away. Mark went to get mom.”

The back of Nicky’s helmet was stuck between the rails of a bridge connecting two pieces of playground equipment. The helmet strap was cutting off her air; her feet were dangling.

Matthew climbed atop the bridge to dislodge the helmet.

“I pushed the helmet off,” he said. “It took two pushes, because the first time it didn’t go all the way.”

Back at the Jordan house — down the street from the playground — Mark summoned his mother, Jodi Jordan.

“He came in with a dead calm. I just knew something” was wrong, she said. “I didn’t even question it.”

Jodi — the wife of Lt. Col. Mike Jordan, 14th Fighter Squadron commander — dashed to the playground and was the first adult on scene.

Nicky was lying motionless on the ground, her breathing labored, Jodi said, adding she thought the girl had a seizure.

Other children had also run home to tell their parents.

When another adult arrived, Jodi went home to call 911 and returned with blankets to keep Nicky warm.

In the meantime, Maj. Kevin Stephens, an emergency room doctor who lives in the neighborhood, arrived and administered care to Nicky before an ambulance arrived.

“We were told 30 seconds [more] and she could have been dead,” Jodi said.

Of her boys, she said:

“I sincerely believe if they had not acted the way they did, when I got there, she would have been worse.”

Nicky spent the night in the base hospital, but has since made a full recovery. The twins have forged a unique friendship with their neighbor.

“I’m the one who got stuck in the helmet and they saved my life,” Nicky said Tuesday at the Jordan house.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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