DE PERE - A Green Bay doctor, who was out for a jog along the Fox River Trail, shares his story about an incredible rescue, as he jumped into action, saving a four-year-old after she fell into water and was quickly going under.
Emergency room physician with BayCare Clinic, Dr. Mike Hartmann and his wife, jog along the Fox River Trail about three times a week.
But this past Sunday, it was unlike any run they've ever been on.
“Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a flash and heard a splash in the water,” said Dr. Mike Hartmann.
Not seeing anything significant happen, only hearing a family begin to worry, Dr. Hartmann -- a father of three – knew something was wrong.
“She screamed, where's my daughter. And I just seemed to know that the child had fallen in the water,” said Dr. Mike Hartmann.
The four-year-old girl fell off the boat landing.
“The water was awfully cold and awfully dark and saw the faint appearance of a child's arm, and she wasn't moving at all,” he said.
Hartmann said he didn't even think about what was happening around him, in the moment, instinct took over.
“I just kind of laid down and she was down in there, and I just reached right out,” he recalled.
He pulled the little girl out of the water, and handed her over to her father.
“I don’t even think she was scared,” he said. “She was just so stunned. And my wife knelt down and started talking to her.”
Looking back now, Hartmann said the entire moment seems surreal.
“Sweet little girl,” he described. “She had a bag of gummy fish in her hand, bag of gummy fish, and she never let go of the gummy fish.”
He said it was nothing more than fate.
“I feel so lucky that I was there and aware enough,” he said.
He never got the family's name, simply jumped back on the trail and jogged home.
It wasn't until later; he called a friend, De Pere Fire Chief, Al Matzke, who knew his friend had done something very special.
“Often times, we can come in contact with these types of events but we either don't have the fortitude or think to act. He acted right at the right time, the right place, and the outcome was amazing,” said Matzke.
Matzke and Dr. Hartmann both say the family was at no fault, and things like this just happen.
“It almost has to be a one-on-one relationship, where that toddler is just not left unattended at all,” said Matzke.
Matzke wants to use this amazing story as a good teaching tool, that no water is safe.
“We can't let our guard down around water, particularly with toddlers,” said Matzke.
Matzke explained parents must talk to their children about staying safe around open water. If possible, wear a life jacket at all times. And with little children, never take your eyes off of them.
“It really has to be specifically set for the age of the child. So if they're a little bit older, they can be taught some of those safety rules and regulations and practices,” he said.
As Dr. Hartmann recalls those 30 seconds that went by in a blink of an eye he's just thankful the trail led him to that very spot at that exact moment.
“Just was one of those situations that I happened to be in the right place, right time just got very lucky to be there,” said Dr. Hartmann.
Proving to him, and so many others, miracles happen when we least expect them.
Dr. Hartmann said he would love to see the little girl again, and give the family a big hug.