KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) – Paul Donnelly’s dogs Zebedee and Ellie Mae join Paul Donnelly on Longview Lake at least once a week.
“It’s a place that I love,” Donnelly said. “You know, a place to retreat to.”
This past Saturday, it was just Zeb with him, and by the end of the day, some heavy thoughts.
“You really think about life and, and just, you know, how quickly things can change,” Donnelly mused.
Donnelly spent the weekend wondering what happened to the man he pulled onto his boat on Saturday afternoon at Longview Lake. A cry for help led him to a man unconscious in the water. The man and his wife had been thrown from their jet ski.
The man’s wife kept screaming his name, Dennis, as Donnelly performed chest compressions before getting him to an ambulance. Wednesday morning, Donnelly got online a searched the phrase “Dennis Longview Lake.”
That led him to the report KCTV5 did just hours before in which Dennis Knox’s daughter, Jordan Knox, recounted the moments when her father thought would be his last, her gratitude for the stranger who stepped in, and why it was so important to find him.
Wednesday afternoon, Knox and Donnelly began texting to arrange an eventual reunion, and Donnelly described the events that were life changing for him as well.
He said he has no training in CPR. He was never an EMT or a lifeguard. He’s a professor at the Kansas City Art Institute who’d seen videos of people doing chest compressions and realized he needed to just try. He put all his might into it as Knox’s wife said things he won’t ever forget.
“Things like, ‘Don’t leave me,’” Donnelly recounted. “And it was an incredibly traumatic and moving experience.”
He said just as Knox started to come to, other boaters arrived to help. A man boarded to watch over Knox and stay on with 911 as Donnelly drove back to the dock.
“To be honest with you I didn’t know I was capable,” Donnelly said. “I’m just glad I was able to be there at the right place at the right time.”
KCTV5 sent photos of Donnelley and Zebedee on their boat to Knox’s family to confirm the connection. His wife said the human faces that day were a blur, but the boat is a match, and Zeb’s face is for sure the canine one that locked on hers calmly in those panicked moments before reaching an ambulance crew at the dock.
“They sort of just asked everybody to vacate the area,” Donnelly said of the ambulance crew. “And then it was over like that and everybody was gone.”
“This man saved my dad’s life, so we want to find him,” Jordan Knox said on Tuesday, before Donnelly connected with her.
Donnelly said he was thinking the same thing as he’s been trying to process that heavy moment.
“It would, I feel like, put some sort of closure on it,” he said.
Jordan Knox said her dad wants to be there when they meet but he’s still in a lot of pain, so they’re texting to arrange a face-to-face reunion a few weeks from now.