Swimmer meets his rescuers, offers gratitude

SOLANA BEACH – Jackson Hawkins knows the pressures of competitive swimming, but nothing in his young life could compare to the case of nerves he had June 27 when he met the two girls who saved his life Memorial Day weekend.
Jackson, who lives in Las Vegas, was at the William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Center in Irvine for a swim competition May 28 when he was challenged by friends to swim 75-meters underwater. Annie Driscoll, who was awaiting her own meet, noticed Jackson lying lifeless at the bottom of the pool. She plunged beneath the water to get a closer look and saw bubbles coming from his mouth. Without thinking of her own safety, Annie, a slightly built 15-year-old, lifted the head of the 6’4”, 192 lbs. Jackson above the water where she was assisted by Maddi Uehelbor who had already notified a lifeguard that something was terribly wrong.
On Tuesday a ceremony was held at the Boys and Girls Club of Solana Beach, where the girls compete on the Rancho San Dieguito Swim Team, to honor their heroism. Jackson traveled to Solana Beach for the event from a competition earlier in the day at the same aquatics center in Irvine where the incident occurred a few weeks earlier.
“I was really nervous coming to this pool and meeting the girls who saved my life,” he said. “I said to myself, ‘don’t mess up.’”
Jackson was gracious as kids stood in line along the swimming pool to shake his hand and wish him well. The tall, athletic swimmer said there was nothing embarrassing about being saved by two girls.
“I’m awestruck,” he said. “It was amazing how they lifted 192 lbs. out of 10 feet of water.”
He reported that his doctor estimated that he had held his breath during the race for 1:30 minutes before losing consciousness.
“I think it might have been 1:50 minutes,” he added. “Annie pulled me up right away. She didn’t come up for air first to get the lifeguard. If she had, it would have been over. I would have been dead or had irreversible brain damage.”
Jackson said the incident changed his life. He offers this advice to other kids.
“Don’t do stupid things that put your life at risk,” he said. “My mom gets annoyed now because I’ll say, ‘Hey, slow down! Don’t drive so fast. I’m watching you.’”
Jackson’s mother, Nicole Hawkins, was also at the ceremony.
“Going through the process of thinking I could lose Jackson, then having him celebrate his 16th birthday a few days later was very overwhelming,” she said. “I believe it was the hand of God that allowed it (the incident) to play out all right.”
Both girls are entering 10th grade later this summer, Annie at Carlsbad High and Maddi at La Costa Canyon High. Maddi says the incident changed her life, too.
“It’s made me more aware of my surroundings and aquatic safety,” she said. “You never think it’s going to happen, but it’s good to pay attention.”
Jackson says he plans to stay in touch with his lifesavers when he returns to Las Vegas.
“I have Annie on Facebook,” he said. “We weren’t friends before. I think we are now.”

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