When Carlos Peña-Rivera walked into the hospital room of his stepson, Lester Rivera-Lozada, in May, all he knew was that the 14-year-old had been in a boating accident.
"I saw the sheets full of blood, and I thought, 'Oh my God, this is bad,'" Peña-Rivera said of seeing the boy after driving from Lexington to Louisville's Kosair Children's Hospital.
What Peña-Rivera, a Spanish teacher at Henry Clay High School, didn't know was that the boy was a hero.
Earlier that day, Lester had been watching his girlfriend's brother, 11-year-old Trever Ludick, ride a wake board behind the Ludicks' motor boat on Taylorsville Lake.
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As Lester looked on, the board flipped, hitting Trever in the face and knocking him unconscious.
Lester managed to get the unconscious Trever back onto the boat before his own leg was sucked into the boat's propeller.
"I went out to get him," Lester said. "And the boat pulled me under."
He pulled himself out from under the boat and climbed back on board, he said. That's when everyone started screaming.
He hadn't immediately noticed that his leg was bleeding from deep cuts caused by the boat's propeller.
"I looked down and saw the cuts, and that's when the pain actually started," he said.
Lester fractured his fibula and ruptured a nerve in his leg in the accident. He remained in the hospital about eight days, as doctors repaired his leg.
Lester recently received the Kids Wish Network's Hero of the Month Award for his bravery.
The group works with more than 100 children's facilities across the country, including hospitals, child advocacy centers and homeless shelters, to grant wishes to terminally ill children.
The Hero of the Month Award was created in 2005 to help children who have experienced a life-altering or traumatic situation, said Margo Carter, facilities coordinator for Kids Wish Network.
Lester, who will soon be a sophomore at Henry Clay, now has a walking cast that allows him to get around pretty well, he said.
Doctors told Lester's family it could take up to two years for him to fully recover, but he's making a lot of progress, Peña-Rivera said.
Lester found out he was nominated for the award the day before he left the hospital, he said.
"I thought 'No. There's no way I could have gotten it,'" he said. "I'm sure there's other kids who have gone through more than me."
He plans to use his award money for back-to-school supplies and clothes.
Along with a $400 gift card, Lester received a medal, a T-shirt and a certificate, Carter said.
Peña-Rivera said he's trying to use the accident to point out to his stepson how fragile life is.
"When I look at everything, it could have been a lot worse," he said. "He could have lost his leg. He could have died."