When Nathan Palkovic decided to take a one-credit lifeguarding course in college he had no way of knowing that these simple skills would never leave him and someday enable him to save a young girl.
Nathan has been described as a hardworking, all-American guy… someone you would want on your team. On April 13, 2011, sixth grader Ivy had Nathan on her team, and it saved her life.
That Wednesday started as a normal day at Von Steuben Middle School. Ivy and her classmates were taking a social studies quiz in Rena Musgrove’s sixth grade class when the unthinkable happened. Ivy fell to the ground in what appeared to be a seizure and she soon stopped breathing.
Rena and teachers aid, Georgie Kastelic, called the office for help as they watched the most terrifying moment of their lives… a girl struggle for her life.
Nathan, who was working as a teachers aid that day, was in the office and answered the call. After running down to the room and seeing Ivy on the floor, Nathan’s training from that one-credit course all those years ago kicked in. He pushed desks out of the way and started performing CPR.
“We knew it was going to be okay when he came in the room,” said Georgie. “He was in charge and had a calming effect.”
Just as paramedics arrived, Ivy took three labored breaths. She was taken to the Children’s Hospital of Illinois where she fought for her life. Ivy suffered a traumatic brain injury due to that event, and her family was initially told that she might never be able to leave her bed.
But this vibrant girl with an unbeatable spirit proved them all wrong.
Ivy has regained her speech and can walk with assistance. When Ivy enters a room she is always smiling and instantly starts joking because she loves to make others laugh. Everyone who knows Ivy can attest to the fact that her determination is an inspiration to everyone she meets.
Nathan takes one look at Ivy and insists that she is the real hero in this story, citing her unbelievable amount of courage.
“I don’t feel like a hero,” says Nathan. “It was a whole school effort, I was just a small factor.”
Rena and Georgie who watched the event unfold see things much differently than Nathan. When Rena hears Nathan refute the title hero, she calmly states, “The greatest hero’s don’t know they are one until the moment comes. That’s our Nate.”