Tinley Park boy a lifesaver for his ‘Papa’
BY MIKE NOLAN firstname.lastname@example.org July 23, 2013 10:38PM
Cole Matthews (left) was credited with saving the life of his great-grandfather, Arnold Cole, who uses oxygen due to a lung condition and was set ablaze when a spark from an electric grinder ignited the oxygen on July 1 in his Orland Park home. The 13-year-old Matthews is named for his great-grandfather. | Mike Nolan~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 25, 2013 6:06AM
Cole Matthews is a frequent visitor to the Orland Park home of his great-grandfather, Arnold Cole, where he helps with chores and this summer will learn the finer points of mowing and trimming the yard.
Matthews, who recently turned 13, calls the 84-year-old man — whom the boy is named after — “Papa.”
Scar tissue on Arnold Cole’s lungs requires him to use oxygen. It was that oxygen and a home improvement project the two were working on that nearly cost Arnold Cole his life, and his quick-thinking great-grandson is credited with saving “Papa” after a spark from an electric grinding tool ignited the oxygen.
It happened July 1, causing first- and second-degree burns on the back of Arnold Cole’s neck, upper lip and nose, according to Cole’s daughter, Linda Dore. Just a few weeks later, there’s no real evidence of the burns on his face, which she finds remarkable.
The day after the fire “you could not recognize him,” Dore said.
Cole’s wife, Dottie, will, in December, celebrate 64 years of marriage to him and said, “He didn’t even look like himself.”
Matthews said he is at “Papa’s” home probably three times a week, and his July 1 visit was “just like any other day.” The two had been working on fixing a ceiling tile, but Matthews said he thought they’d finished and he laid on the couch to try to nap.
He heard a “real shrill scream” coming from the basement where his great-grandfather was working with a grinding tool, and dashed downstairs to find him “flailing around” and his face aflame.
Matthews, who turned 13 on June 7, had the levelheadedness and presence of mind to realize he had to act quickly and calmly.
“I thought, ‘He’s on fire, I have to put the fire out,’ ” he said.
He shouted to his great-grandmother to bring down a bucket of water, and used one of the flip-flops he was wearing to snuff the flames.
“His face was black, there was a piece of skin coming off his nose,” Matthews said.
Cole said he was using the grinder to shorten a screw, and the potential hazard didn’t occur to him.
“I saw this spark and that was all she wrote,” Cole said.
Holding his hands up to approximate the size of a basketball, he said there was “a fireball this big around in front of my face.”
Cole was initially treated for a few hours at Palos Community Hospital, then spent two days at Loyola University Medical Center, followed by some time in a rehab center.
At Palos, nurses who tended to Cole praised Matthews for his quick action, saying it likely saved his great-grandfather’s life.
Some years back, Arnold Cole suffered a burst aneurysm and his family feared the worst. Dore’s daughter and Matthews’ mom, Tina, was pregnant with her son at the time. So overjoyed that her grandfather survived the episode, she named her son Cole, Dore said.
A Tinley Park resident, he’ll start eighth grade next month at Prairie View Middle School. He said that language arts is his favorite subject, and he is an avid reader.