Lexington resident Anna Carlson stopped a man from bleeding profusely from an artery using an unusual tourniquet: her pants.
She was one of three citizens honored as heroes during a news conference at the city's Government Center on Tuesday. Carlson, Erick Long and Chris Soulis all received Meritorious Citation Awards from the Lexington fire department for saving lives this summer.
Long was given an award for performing CPR on a 3-year-old who nearly drowned in a swimming pool at a home on Bridle Ridge Lane. Soulis was honored for pulling a barely conscious woman from the window of a burning house on Loudon Avenue.
Carlson was commended for using her pajama bottoms to slow the bleeding of a man whose arm was nearly severed in a car crash on North Limestone.
Mayor Jim Gray, interim Fire Chief Keith Jackson and Public Safety Commissioner Clay Mason told the stories of the three heroes, who each got a round of applause. Also in attendance were a smiling Keelan McClanahan, the 3-year-old Long saved from the pool, and his family.
The fire department honors community heroes each year at its annual awards banquet in the spring, but "because these three events happened in close proximity and because they were such outstanding stories, we didn't want to wait," Battalion Chief Marshall Griggs said.
Two of the events happened at the same time, about a half-mile apart.
At 2:30 a.m. July 4, as Carlson was bandaging the car-accident victim at Glenn Place and North Limestone, Soulis was pulling his neighbor from a burning home at 268 East Loudon.
Carlson said she saw fire trucks pass while she was waiting for an ambulance to arrive at the crash scene.
"I was crouching down there, and I was like, 'They're passing us!' " she said.
After the man had been taken to a hospital, an officer told her the trucks were headed to a fire.
The rescue for which Long was recognized happened about a month earlier, on June 7 as he was working on a sidewalk outside the McClanahan family's house on Bridle Ridge Lane.
As he was pouring concrete, Keelan McClanahan's 9-year-old sister, Jaylin, ran around the house crying hysterically, asking whether anybody knew CPR. Long and his co-workers ran to the back of the home, where they saw Keelan.
Thanks to Long's CPR training, Keelan was breathing normally by the time the ambulance arrived.
"It's not often that a 3-year-old throwing up is a welcome sight, but when he is throwing up pool water and breathing again, it certainly is," Jackson said before he presented Long with his award.
The honorees said they did not feel like heroes, that they were just doing what they hoped someone would do for them if they were in trouble.
For Long, 31, memories of Keelan's rescue were painful — he said he was excited to receive the Meritorious Citation award, but he had little else to say about the heroic rescue.
"It gets harder to tell the story over and over. It's not something I really wanted to see," he said. "It's hard enough to get that image out of your head."
Soulis said he was surprised to learn that anyone thought his actions were heroic — "What was I going to do, go back to my house and go to sleep?" he said — but he added he hoped news of the rescues would set an example for others.
After the news conference, Gray asked reporters whether they had any questions.
"This is one of those where we don't get many questions, but we sure do get a lot of smiles," he said.
None of the stories drew more smiles than that of Carlson, who said she never imagined she would help save someone's life while pantsless.
It was after midnight July 4 when Carlson's roommate woke her up and said there had been a loud car crash on North Limestone, down the street from her home. She jumped out of bed and ran to the scene, where she found the driver of a wrecked car lying in the street.
Carlson — who used to be licensed as a certified nursing assistant — knew she needed to stop the bleeding or the man would die. Yanking off her pajama bottoms, she tied a pants leg around the wound and kept pressure on it until paramedics arrived to take over.
She laughed as she recalled a man in a car slowing down to ask whether she needed help. When she indicated paramedics were on the way, the car pulled away slowly.
"I was like, "Oh, God, he took a picture of my butt," she said.
Jackson, the fire chief, commended Carlson for her bravery and quick thinking. Along with her Meritorious Citation, Jackson presented her with a new pair of pants.
"When our firefighters and paramedics arrived, they found Anna embarrassed of her attire but doing what she needed to do, which was to hold pressure on the wound," he said. "The first arriving officer said, without a doubt, she saved his life."