Still in her corner
Jerry Ashlock’s days were predictable. As a truck driver, he saw the same route every day. That was until the last Friday in May, when he heard screaming as his truck idled at an intersection. That was the day Amaya Hess entered his life, and everything changed in an instant.
While he didn’t know it at the time, the 2-year-old had just been pried loose from the jaws of a pit bull. All he saw was a woman kneeling, covered in blood, toddler in her arms, screaming that her baby wasn’t breathing. By then he was out of the truck and coming to their aid. “Then when I got closer,” he says, “I heard the mother say, that dog took my baby’s face.”
Bobbie Tomlin, Amaya’s mother, recalls that everyone was in a panic because the child’s face was gone. Ashlock, she says, “Didn’t think twice, he got the debris out of her throat and got her breathing again.”
Amaya’s heart had stopped. Ashlock first cleared an airway so she could breathe. After a few chest compressions, her pulse was restored. With these quick actions, he gave Amaya a second chance. She’s been at Riley Hospital ever since, fighting to survive.
Tomlin can’t say enough good things about him. “He’s definitely my angel,” she says.
Ashlock comes by his cool head honestly. He was drilled in pediatric CPR in the military and worked triage in a hospital. He is no stranger to rescue work either, having served on a local canine search and rescue team with his lab cross, Annie.
He is also a deeply spiritual man who believes that he was merely acting on divine orders. “I believe there is a type of divine intervention — there’s a higher power bringing me forward.”
That sense of calling has led him to continue advocating for Amaya, who remains in a medically-induced coma after several surgeries. Taking a leading role in raising money for her medical needs, Ashlock lives up to the adage that once you save a life, you are responsible for it forever.
He plays bass in a local country band, Four 60 Five, which will do some benefit concerts later in the year. At upcoming performances June 30 and July 1, 100 percent of T-shirt sales will go to the fund. An ABATE bike ride fund-raiser is set for the weekend of Sept. 16-17.
Ashlock also hopes to enlist fellow dog lovers who, like him, advocate responsible ownership.
Ashlock considers his ongoing involvement a natural progression. “It’s hard to see a young mom struggle with no job, no insurance, no prospects, and to see that baby fighting for her life. I don’t see how I could just walk away.”
Even aside from his life-saving actions, it’s clear he’s already had an enormous impact. Tomlin says he’s visited Amaya several times and calls daily. “He’s had a huge role in making sure we’re all OK,” she says, explaining that he was instrumental in getting her counseling to help deal with the shock. He was also the first to bring a stuffed toy for Amaya’s 4-year-old sister Brielle, who witnessed the attack.
“He’s part of the family now,” she says. “He’s said he’ll be there every step of the way till the last breath he takes.”
He’s even been named co-trustee of the Amaya Hess Trust Fund set up by the family’s attorneys.
Amaya’s condition is critical, but stable. “It’s touch and go still,” Ashlock says. “She’s going to need all the help and support she can get from private citizens and corporations alike.” He adds that her medical needs will extend far into the future.
So does his dream for her. His vision is threefold and far-reaching: to aid Tomlin in gaining education and employment so she can support her family; to model stability and spiritual values; and “for Amaya to have every opportunity to have an education and become whatever she chooses.” He hopes to raise enough money to cover educational expenses in addition to medical needs.
One thing is certain: Amaya healed Ashlock’s life in the same instant that he saved hers. He’d lost sight of what really mattered, he realizes now. Caught up in the mundane duties of daily life, he was on a downward slide to self-loathing. Now he’s energized by his new mission, his faith refocused.
“Since this happened, watching this little girl fight like a little prizefighter — I mean, she’s going round after round beyond 15 — to see that has rejuvenated hope in my heart that one person really can make a difference.”
Tomlin would agree. “In no way am I happy this happened,” she says, “but it shows me there are angels here on Earth.”
Contributions accepted at:
Amaya Hess Trust Fund
Union Federal Bank
45 N. Pennsylvania St.
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Four 60 Five will perform at three venues this weekend, with T-shirts sold as a fund-raiser for Amaya Hess.
June 30, 9:30 p.m., Stables, 6125 Southeastern Ave.
July 1, 10 a.m., F1 Car Show, Monument Circle
July 1, 10:30 p.m., Eight Seconds Saloon, 111 N. Lynhurst Drive