“My guardian angel”: a pregnant woman saved by a firefighter on leave

FAIRFIELD, CT – Panic set in for Melissa Miller on Friday as she struggled 30 feet from shore in the freezing waters of Perry’s Mill Pond, trying in vain to lift her dog, Misty May, onto its partially frozen surface .

The water filled her lungs and the 35-year-old mum-to-be feared for her and her baby.

Then a man – Bridgeport firefighter and Fairfield resident Marcus Dierna – came to his rescue, tying a garden hose to a tree and dragging Miller across the ice to safety.

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“I’m not a religious person, but someone was watching me that day,” said Miller, who lives in Fairfield.

The day started like any other. Miller took his rescue dogs, Oscar and Misty May, a one-year-old who “is still very much a puppy,” to the pond for an off-leash hike, a frequent activity for the trio. While walking, they encountered Fairfield resident Lauren Effron and her dog, Cletus. The women chatted and parted ways, Miller heading for the parking lot, when Misty ran towards the frozen pond.

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“She looked at me, then she fell through the ice,” Miller said. “I couldn’t just watch her drown.”

Miller stepped out onto the pond, but as she approached Misty, she fell in too.

“I was so cold and inhaling water and couldn’t breathe,” said Miller, seven months pregnant with her first child.

Luckily, Dierna, a captain with the Bridgeport Fire Department, saw splashing through her kitchen window. His emergency training began, and he ran to his shed to grab the hose and dashed to the pond.

“I happened to be in the right place at the right time,” he said.

Meanwhile, Effron had decided to end her hike early due to rainy weather, when she saw Misty on the ice.

“It happened so fast, I just started running,” Effron said.

Effron had no leash or way to reach Miller, but she called 911 and saw Dierna running towards the pond.

“It arrived in record time,” she said.

Miller emerged from the water “shaking like a leaf” and less than a shoe, Effron said, and they covered her with their coats.

Shortly after, Fairfield firefighters arrived and wrapped Miller in blankets.

“I couldn’t feel my body for about 10 minutes,” she said.

Miller was taken to hospital, where her baby’s heartbeat was confirmed.

“The baby is moving more than ever, which is a positive sign,” she said.

Effron stayed behind and worked with two firefighters to get Misty out of the ice. Misty and Oscar are safe and sound.

Miller visited Dierna on Saturday with flowers and a card.

“I don’t know what would have happened if he hadn’t saved me,” she choked up in an interview with Patch. “He was my guardian angel that day.”

Dierna was quick to credit her fire training in Bridgeport and said any firefighter in her situation would have done the same. He also warned the Fairfielders of safety risks at Perry’s Mill Pond.

“I think people just have to be a little more careful,” he said.

In a press release issued after the accident, the Fairfield Fire Department urged residents to call 911 immediately if an animal wanders onto the ice, before attempting to rescue it.