Boy, 9, honored for saving mother's, brother's lives

Fourth-grader Jackson Payne was honored for saving his mother and brother in separate incidents

James Scott Baron
The Free Lance-Star, Fredericksburg, Va.

Conway Elementary School fourth-grader Jackson Payne was recognized as a hero this week by Stafford’s emergency responders for not only saving his mother’s life, but also his younger brother’s in a separate incident several days later.

The first happened April 9, when Jennifer Payne of Stafford County met her two sons—Jackson and Zachary—at the bus stop to walk them home. It was not the normal routine for Payne, who had been resting at home due to a lifelong medical condition.

Since birth, Payne has had a rare congenital heart disease.

“I knew that things were going downhill, and I had been taking it easy hoping to get in with a specialist at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, but I went up to the bus stop anyway, instead of having my neighbor get the kids,” Payne said. “I was having chest pains on the way back home from the bus.”

Payne told 9-year-old Jackson, “You have to help get mommy home, something’s not right.”

Jackson got his mother safely into the house, but on her way upstairs to lie down, Payne experienced massive chest pains and collapsed on the stairway, losing consciousness.

“As I was coming back to, between myself and Jackson, we called my parents in Massachusetts and my mom told Jackson over the phone to go and get help,” Payne said.

As Payne remained on the telephone with her mother, Jackson ran out of the house to a nearby neighbor’s home seeking assistance. The neighbor quickly returned to the Payne’s home to attend to Jackson’s ailing mother while Jackson dialed 911.

“I did that for mom because I couldn’t just leave her,” Jackson said. “I had to get someone, so I ran as fast as I could.”

After the ambulance arrived, Payne was rushed to Mary Washington Hospital, where she spent the next several days under the care of doctors and specialists. Because of her complex heart disease—Tetralogy of Fallot, a combination of four congenital abnormalities—Payne was soon transferred to the Baltimore hospital for open-heart surgery.

Now she is at home, on her way to a full recovery.

Payne is grateful that her son helped save her life that day, but she was not surprised.

“He’s so amazing, and he’s my little hero anyway, but I am amazed that he’s so young and he’s got everything so together. He’s such a great kid,” Payne said.

But Jackson’s lifesaving duties didn’t end after he helped his mother.

Twelve days after his mother collapsed on the stairway, Jackson’s grandmother, Jane Balestracci of Lawrence, Mass., was in Stafford with her husband Victor, helping Payne recover, while spending time with Jackson, his 6-year-old brother Zachary, and Payne’s husband Will.

“That night, the boys were overtired and cranky and it was close to bedtime, so I decided Zachary could have half a tablet of melatonin to help him sleep,” said Balestracci.

Zachary, who is allergic to tree nuts, took the portion of the tablet and immediately began showing signs of an allergic reaction.

Jackson grabbed the bottle of melatonin and said to his grandmother, “I need to read that.” After quickly scanning the bottle’s label, he exclaimed, “These have got nuts in them!”

Jackson raced to retrieve an EpiPen to neutralize an allergic reaction and brought the device to his mother, who immediately administered the antidote to young Zachary.

Within seconds, Zachary was on the mend.

“I’m pretty low key helping people every day, but that was pretty high key,” said Jackson. “I’ve not saved a life many times, so my mom was a first and I did it for my brother for a second time.”

“He’s smart. I think he’s too smart for a 9-year-old,” said Balestracci.


Jackson Payne is a fourth grade student at Conway Elementary School. He is also a hero. Yesterday afternoon, Stafford...

Posted by Office of Stafford County Sheriff on Tuesday, May 7, 2019

A guidance counselor at Conway Elementary who was familiar with Jackson’s good deeds told the story to D.A.R.E. Officer Tracy Scoggins, who brought the matter to the attention of Stafford Sheriff David Decatur.

The sheriff recognized Jackson’s heroic deeds at a special ceremony Monday.

“The actions that you took, and your bravery and everything that you did, we felt that it was so important that we got this whole group together to salute you and to say thank you,” Decatur said. “It’s people like you that make a huge difference in our community, and we really count on that relationship with the community, and we count on people helping us, giving us information and doing whatever they can to make Stafford a safer place.”

Decatur presented Jackson with a Stafford County Sheriff’s Office Challenge Coin, as well as a certificate of bravery. County Fire Chief Joseph Cardello gave him an additional challenge coin.

Following the ceremony, the entire Payne family was treated to a VIP tour of the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office, which included stops in the 911 call center, as well as the vehicle garage, where the family had an up-close look at the county’s armor-clad SWAT vehicle.

Jackson told the group he’s thinking of becoming a sheriff, a paramedic or a firefighter someday.

“Look at you, you’re in fourth grade,” said Decatur. “And you’re already a hero in fourth grade. What do you have left?”

“I have to finish Boy Scouts,” Jackson said.


©2019 The Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, Va.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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