Here are a few things that Maitland residents Reggie and Sharon Kidd know about their 29-year-old son, Bob. He’s a devoted Chicago Cubs fan. He’s a professor of engineering and always has loved building things.
And he may not be alive today if it weren’t for Maitland Police Chief David Manuel.
The family of Bob Kidd continues to show its gratitude every year on Dec. 13 — the anniversary of when Manuel saved 23-month-old Bob’s life after a terrifying near-drowning incident. Every year, Reggie and Sharon Kidd, Bob’s parents, deliver lunch to the entire Maitland Police Department on that anniversary — a way to show continuous appreciation and thanks.
Sharon still remembers that fateful day — Dec. 13, 1990 — when she almost lost her son.
“We had some visitors from Venezuela staying with us, and they were shopping or at one of the attractions,” Sharon said. “We had three dogs at the time, and Reggie said, ‘The house smells.’ It was a hot day, and I thought. ’OK, I’ll open up the sliding-glass doors and get some air through the house. The next thing, I know the dogs are fence fighting with the dogs next door, and so I’m pulling them all off one at a time and putting them in the house.”
“My 3-year-old (Charlie) — I hear as I’m pulling the dogs — says, ‘Mom, Bob’s in the pool.’”
Sharon jumped into the pool, grabbed Bob and immediately could see he needed CPR. She blew into his mouth. Still unresponsive. Sharon called 911.
“But I didn’t hear anybody, and I thought, ‘They don’t have 911 down here,’” she said. “I wasn’t getting anywhere, I didn’t get an answer. I didn’t think I had time to do anything else.”
She bolted out of her home to get help from a neighbor — holding Bob in her arms — when she saw a police car racing down the street toward her.
That 911 call had gone through to a dispatcher.
“I thought, ‘I’m going to stop this person, whoever he is,’” Sharon said. “I’m running to the street, and the car stops. (The police officer) was there for me. He got out of the car and came over, and I just gave him Bob and said he fell in the pool.”
That officer was Manuel — a rookie at the time who had only been with the department for about six months. He had finished his training just two months earlier and started taking calls on his own.
“I had no idea what kind of call it was — I just had ‘a women screaming,’” said Manuel, who just happened to be turning onto Sandspur Road less than a mile away from the Kidd house when he got the call.
“When I pulled around the street, that’s when I saw her with Bob in her hands,” he said. “He was blue, and so you know it wasn’t good. Everything just went into autopilot.”
Manuel quickly carried Bob to a grassy area beside the street and started CPR — his first time in a real-life scenario.
“All of the sudden, I think I heard the best sound in the world, which was Bob starting to cry,” Sharon said.
“He bit my finger,” Manuel said with a laugh. “I’ll never forget doing the tongue sweep on him to make sure I was getting air in, and he let into my finger, and I’m like, ‘That’s good!’ I was like ‘OK, we got it.’”
Bob ended up making a full recovery.
“The thing about a near-drowning is that sometimes the person that you resuscitate isn’t fully functional anymore,” Sharon said. “We get to the hospital, and I can hear Bob crying, but I don’t know anything. They take him into a little room, and then they come out and say, ‘Will you come in here?’
“I’ve been praying this whole time,” she said. “I go in, and they say, ‘Tell him to open his eyes.’ I go, ‘Bob, open your eyes,’ and he did. He understands English — that was just huge.”
Critical care and pediatric doctors told the Kidd family Bob possibly could have a learning disability moving forward — and that Reggie and Sharon may never know if it was caused by the incident.
That certainly wasn’t the case. Today, Bob has a doctoral degree and teaches engineering as a professor at The State University of New York, within the Maritime College where students are taught how to captain ships.
He was in the IB program at Winter Park High School and graduated as a valedictorian.
“It was some of the air I put into him,” Manuel said jokingly.
A year after Bob’s incident, Sharon and Reggie realized they had to continue showing their appreciation to Manuel and the Maitland Police Department.
“We ought to at least let them know that we haven’t forgotten what they’ve done,” Sharon said. “I baked cookies and sausage/cheese balls.”
The Kidd family also started a tradition of every year sending Manuel a photo of Bob and a letter talking about the different milestones and firsts in their son’s life. From starting first grade and playing as a shortstop in Little League to getting his driver’s license and starting college at the University of Florida, Bob has grown up before Manuel’s eyes as the photos come in each year. The most recent photo from earlier this month shows Bob with his wife.
That first letter and a small collage of photographs hangs from the wall in Manuel’s office at the police station today. The rest sit inside a special box in a cabinet at home, Manuel said.
“No matter what I ever do in my career and my life, this will be one of the highlights of my life,” Manuel said. “To have a part in doing something like that because of this career I’ve picked, to watch this young man turn into what he is today. … It’s a good part of life.”
Manuel said everything happens for a reason. In one of the Kidd family’s darkest moments, a close and dear friend was there to help — they just hadn’t met him yet.
The Kidd family is forever thankful to the Maitland Police Department — and the calling that every officer has when they put on that uniform, Reggie said.
“It seems at least semi-miraculous that he was basically driving toward our house and that close,” Reggie said. “Time is everything in those situations.”
“(Police officers) aren’t in this business just because they want to arrest bad guys,” he said. “They’re there to help people. Rescuing and restoring life is central to a law-enforcement officer’s calling. We just feel like it’s important for them to know that lives that they care about go on.”
“Our lives would be so totally different had it not worked out the way it did,” Sharon said.