He saved her life in Arkadelphia 56 years ago; they just reunited for the first time since

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ARKADELPHIA, Ark. — A woman who nearly drowned in a bath tub full of bleach as an infant has reunited with the man she credits with saving her life more than 50 years ago.

In 1963, Lesa Peysen was 17 months old and living on O’Connell Street.

She says her mother laid her down for a nap before cleaning the tub and walking away. Moments later, Lesa was found face down in the tub. Her face had turned purple and blue.

“I mean, I was technically dead,” Peysen says.

Lesa was rushed outside to a nearby neighbor, George Mertens.

At the time, Mertens was a Southwestern Bell employee who had just gone through CPR training.

Mertens grabbed Lesa and jumped into the backseat of the car, headed to the hospital.

“He just kept on trying and at some point during the drive, he was able to finally get me to breathe,” Peysen says.

“And, here I am today.”

She now lives in Texas but returned to Arkadelphia with hopes of reuniting with George.

George, 92 now, still lives in Arkadelphia.

The two reunited on Monday with all hugs and smiles.

“When they brought that kid out she had done turned blue,” Mertens says.

George remembers the 1963 scare like it was yesterday.

“Her jaws were locked.”

Lesa calls George her hero, but George is reluctant to accept that title.

“Well, I just did what I thought I needed to do,” Mertens says.

In his opinion, he was simply an old, telephone guy answering a call.

Lesa is considering moving back to the area.

She now has two children of her own and three grandchildren.

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