Some of the things Ronald Wilson learned during 23 years in the Army are now second nature. One of those things was CPR, and Sunday afternoon his quick reaction kept a 2-year-old boy alive.
Wilson, 50, was driving south on I-15 at the Beck Street interchange about 5 p.m. Sunday when a minivan about four cars in front of him careened out of control. He watched as the van flipped onto its side, skidded across the freeway and then rolled.As it rolled, a woman and a toddler were thrown from the vehicle. Wilson and several other motorists stopped.
"I started walking up to the accident," he said. "Nobody knew what to do. The baby was lying on the side of the road."
The child wasn't breathing.
"I started CPR on the baby," he said. The woman thrown from the car was the child's aunt. She told him the toddler had turned 2 just the day before.
Wilson worked on the child until a rescue team arrived. The child, whose name wasn't available Monday, was eventually flown to Primary Children's Medical Center, where he remained in critical condition Monday.
Sunday wasn't the first time Wilson had to call upon lifesaving skills he learned in the Army. In 1981, he administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation to a man who was hit by a car in Germany. For saving that man, Wilson received a medal from the Army and awards from the city of Frankfurt and the state of Hessen.
Wilson, who retired from the Army in 1985, doesn't think of his actions as heroic; he thinks of them as a learned response.
"You're trained for so many years, you just do what has to be done," he said from his Bountiful home Monday morning. "You don't think about it; you don't worry about consequences. This is what you're trained to do, and you just do it."
"The Lord's given him the ability and seems to put him in the right place at the right time," added his wife, Cheryl.
Wilson has two children and an 11-month-old granddaughter. He thought about them after the little boy was taken from the scene of the accident. He said the child looked a lot like his son at that age.
Performing CPR on anybody is scary, he said, but he added he had help both times.
"I firmly believe it's not what you're doing or how you're doing it," he said. "The Lord is directing me. It wasn't me. . . . I was just an instrument."
Wilson went to the hospital Sunday night to visit the child and met most of the boy's family. The child's grandfather and Wilson gave the boy a blessing and felt inspired to tell him he'd get well. When asked how the family received him Wilson said: "What can you say? They thanked me."
Wilson is grateful, too.
"I'm just thankful I was able to do it," he said. "I'm thankful that the little boy is going to make it. If I helped in that light, then fantastic. That's all that matters to me."
The child was strapped in an adult seat belt, but it couldn't hold the small body in the car through the rollover. Police warn that toddlers should be in child-restraint seats. The accident is still under investigation.