MOUNT VERNON — Michelle Graham has many titles — mother, wife, daughter, caregiver, friend. After saving a drowning man in Foundation Park on Saturday, she can add hero to that list.
“I didn’t give it a thought, not one thought,” Graham said. After being told Ben Conkle, Mount Vernon, was in the water, Graham ran from the picnic area at the park to the east lake to help.
“I just ran. I started taking everything out of my pockets and throwing it. My phone, my money, anything I had,” she said.
When she made it to the water, Conkle was about 25 feet from the shore. Graham swam out to him, grabbing him around his neck and by his hair and began to swim back to the shore. She said she knew her daughter, 16-year-old Ashley, was waiting and could help her bring Conkle out of the water. By the time she got him there, Graham said a man came down to the water to meet her, she took another couple of strokes and shoved Conkle toward her helper.
A third Good Samaritan came running stating she was a nurse and said to turn Conkle on his side. Graham said the unknown nurse hit him on the back several times causing him to regurgitate the lake water he had ingested.
Conkle was taken to Knox Community Hospital by the Mount Vernon Fire Department, where he was kept overnight.
Conkle told Graham he felt dizzy while fishing and fell into the water. He thought he had gained control but lost it and ended up back in the water.
Conkle and Graham were with the same group of people fishing at the park, but Graham said it would not have mattered to her if it was someone she knew or a stranger, she would have reacted the same way.