A child screaming in your face hardly makes for a pleasant experience, but it did for Simi Valley resident Tami Kirkland one day last month.
It all took place on May 9, a hot Wednesday afternoon that saw the temperature hovering in the upper 80s. Kirkland and her husband, John, were relaxing in their backyard when they heard frantic yelling coming from the home next door.
Peeking over their fence, Kirkland realized there was something seriously wrong with her neighbors’ 6-year-old daughter, Madelyn Puopolo.
The young girl had gone to a friend’s house next door and was swimming in their backyard pool with an adult watching when Madelyn somehow ended up floating unconscious in the pool, fire officials said.
Kirkland asked John to give her a boost over the fence and to call 911.
When she got to Madelyn, “(the little girl) wasn’t breathing and she was blue,” Kirkland said. “She was listless—she was a rag doll, basically.”
A foster parent, Kirkland had taken the required CPR training, so she knew what to do.
“I just grabbed her and started CPR on her,” Kirkland said.
Praying all the while she applied the lifesaving technique, she said, she was gripped by fear.
“I was really scared that she wasn’t going to come to—really scared.” she said.
Suddenly, Madelyn opened her eyes and began coughing and spitting up water.
“I just praised God,” Kirkland said.
As soon as she recovered enough, Madelyn star ted screaming.
“She looked at me and started screaming. . . . And I’m like, ‘You go ahead and scream, baby. Get those lungs full of air.’”
It was the best scream she’d ever heard, Kirkland said.
Firefighters from Ventura County Fire Station 41 in Simi Valley arrived and took Madelyn to a hospital.
On Monday, the 6-year-old was running around and playing with her brothers, Lucas, 9, and Evan, 4, at the firehouse as officials presented Kirkland with certificates of appreciation from Ventura County Fire Department, the county Board of Supervisors and Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin.
“Talking to her, talking to the family, talking to the dispatchers and the paramedics who responded, we realized, ‘Hey, we have to recognize her,’” Station 41 Capt. Jeremy Bower said.
Madelyn’s parents, Meredith and John, said they were grateful for their neighbor’s quick actions. They’ve been friends with the Kirklands since they moved to Simi Valley three years ago, John Puopolo said.
“We’ve become better friends— definitely” since the incident, he said.
Kirkland’s training in CPR highlights the need for people to learn the technique, Division Chief John Spykerman said.
“That training kicked right in when she needed it,” he said. “A lot of times when we hear about these situations, it’s bad news. So when we see someone in the community taking action, it’s important to recognize that.”