When you hear an unexpected knock on your front door after dark, do you open it? Fortunately for one Arizona family, their neighbor did – and it may very well have been because of what she saw through the window when she checked to see exactly who had come knocking.
Jessica Penoyer opened her door one evening in April 2017 to find her five-year-old neighbor, Salvatore Cicalese, standing on her stoop. The young boy was there without an adult, which was surprising in itself.
But then Penoyer realized that the boy had something – or someone – in his arms. “He’s standing there and holding something, and I thought it was a doll,” she told Arizona’s ABC 15.
Upon closer inspection, however, Penoyer could see that the doll wasn’t a toy at all; it was Cicalese’s two-month-old sister. Yes, he had put a blanket around the baby and carried her along with him to his neighbor’s house.
At this point, the wheels in Penoyer’s mind must have been turning. Why were these two small children alone and out of the house after dark? So, she asked the boy for an explanation, and she could have sworn that he said it was because his dog had died. In fact, though, his presence had nothing to do with a pet.
The only other person who was home at the Cicaleses’ at the time was Sal’s mother, Kaitlyn. For the young family, it had apparently been a normal night – albeit a bit of a stressful one, as any parents of two young children can easily imagine.
So, when the young mother had put her little ones down for a good night’s rest, she decided to treat herself. Yes, she began to run the water for a long, hot shower.
However, shortly afterward her young son heard a thud or thump that woke him right up from his carefree sleep. And when Sal went to check on his mom, he found her unconscious in the bathtub.
Sal’s next move would have been impressive for an adult or a teenager, let alone a five-year-old child. He went to get his baby sister, put her in a blanket and made sure she was safe.
After gently placing his swaddled sister in the living room, the little boy then ran to the garage. There, he pulled a stool into position so that his tiny fingers could reach the remote control for the door. He slipped once, too, tumbling into a pile of shoes, but he recovered. Then he climbed the stool again and clicked the remote to open the exit.
Next, little Sal went back and grabbed the baby before leaving through the garage door that he had so deftly opened. He then knocked on Penoyer’s door and told her what had happened. And when she thought he said that his dog had passed away, the young boy corrected her.
“He said, ‘No, my mom died in the shower. Can you take care of us?’” Penoyer told ABC 15. Hearing these words, she instantly called the emergency services, who raced to the fallen mother’s side. In the meantime, Penoyer went inside the home and discovered the children’s mom lying in the bathtub with the water still running.
Fortunately, the paramedics didn’t find that Kaitlyn had tragically passed away in the middle of the night. Instead, she had suffered a seizure – her second since giving birth to Sal’s little sister. Frighteningly, her last memory of that night was turning on the shower – and then the next day, she woke up in the hospital.
It didn’t take long for Kaitlyn to uncover the many facets of her son’s bravery, however. “Honestly, he saved my life. I was under the faucet. If he wouldn’t have gotten help, I would have drowned,” she told ABC 15.
And, of course, the boy didn’t just save his mom’s life; he was alert enough to care for an infant, too. Kaitlyn told ABC15 that her son had brought his sister along to the neighbor’s so that she wouldn’t have to experience the trauma of seeing their mother dead.
And even though his mother is very much alive, the youngster has had trouble understanding the fact that she’s okay and will be around for years to come. “Every day is a challenge for us. He asks me a billion times if I’m going to be okay,” Kaitlyn said.
“He’ll tell me, ‘Are you going to have another seizure?’ ‘No, I’m okay.’ ‘Are you going to die today?’ ‘No, I’m not going to die today,’” the young mother added.
But despite his lingering fears and questions, there have been some definite perks for young Sal thanks to his heroism. When the area’s firefighting squad caught wind of the boy’s courageous efforts to save his mom, they decided to name him an honorary firefighter. Little Sal thus received a certificate, a shirt, a helmet and a patch.
“Rural Metro fire wants to recognize you as an honorary firefighter. You get to join the ranks of all these guys that came to help your mom,” said Rural Metro Fighters’ Fire Department spokesman Shawn Gilleland. And Sal accepted his award with a huge grin.
Yet while the young boy’s actions showed his intrinsic bravery, Gilleland took a moment to shed light on the importance of emergency training, especially for kids. “Talk to [your kids] about it. What do you need to do? How do you dial 911? What are the proper uses for 911?” she told ABC 15. As for the Cicaleses, they swear that they had never had such a conversation with Sal before. Lucky for them, though, their son was able to work on instinct alone, and his quick thinking may just have saved his mother’s life.