Jessica McClure Morales was playing in the backyard of her aunt’s home, which was also a daycare center, when she fell into the well on October 14, 1987. She was 18 months old at the time. Her mother, Cissy, had briefly turned away to answer a phone call and did not see Jessica wander off to the well12. The well was 8 inches (20 cm) in diameter and 22 feet (7 m) below grade.

The rescue of Baby Jessica from that well took more than the effort of one individual, the whole country was passionately involved in seeing her saved.

The Rescue

Two hours after Jessica fell into that well, rescuers came to the site and worked relentlessly to save her life. They noticed Jessica was trapped with her right leg elevated above her head, this position was critical as it put her at risk of losing that leg even if she was finally rescued. There was urgency, and she needed to be taken out of that hole as soon as possible.

Officials sought assistance from nearby oil drillers in an effort to promptly free Jessica. However, they soon realized that the well was encompassed by solid rock. Additionally, the jackhammers used by the rescuers were ill-suited for the task at hand since they were specifically designed for vertical drilling rather than horizontal drilling.

The rescue effort

When the jackhammers failed, the drillers resorted to another technology, waterjet cutting, which allowed them to effortlessly cut through the rocks and reach Jessica.

Forty-five hours after Jessica fell into the well, the adjoining shaft and cross-tunnel were successfully constructed. Throughout the drilling process, the rescue team had the heartening experience of hearing Jessica singing the tune of “Winnie the Pooh.”

In a remarkable feat, paramedic Robert O’Donnell managed to maneuver himself inch by inch into the tunnel, successfully freeing Jessica from her confined position within the well, where her leg was trapped above her forehead. He then passed her on to a fellow paramedic, who promptly carried her to safety. Subsequently, she was transferred to another paramedic, who transported her to a nearby ambulance that was waiting to provide further medical assistance.

While was trapped in that well, the rescue effort was broadcast and published globally. CNN covered the event while a local media station KMID-TV received calls from organizations and individuals globally who wanted to have the latest information on Jessica’s well-being.

Ronald Reagan, the then-president of the United States said, “Everybody in America became godmothers and godfathers of Jessica while this was going on.”

Scott Shaw’s photograph capturing McClure’s rescue became the recipient of the prestigious 1988 Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography, as published in the Odessa American.

The remarkable story later served as inspiration for a television movie titled “Everybody’s Baby: The Rescue of Jessica McClure,” produced by ABC in 1989. The film starred Beau Bridges and Patty Duke, and it included several individuals who had participated in the actual rescue as extras, adding an authentic touch to the production.

After successfully rescuing McClure on October 16, 1987, medical professionals expressed concerns regarding the potential need to amputate Jessica’s foot. The elevated position of her leg above her head for 58 and a half hours, while she was trapped in the well, had resulted in significant damage to blood flow, posing a threat to her limb.

Miraculously, after a hyperbaric oxygen therapy, Jessica only lost a toe in the elevated leg.

Following the rescue effort, the paramedic, Robert O’Donnell developed PTSD. Tragically, he passed away from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

When Jessica turned 25 on March 26, 2011, she received a trust fund that was established from donations from people. She bought a house and decided to use some part of the trust for her children’s education.

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