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‘Without him, I wouldn’t be here’

Posted at 12:41 PM, May 17, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-17 12:41:48-04

Rosemarie Melanson can barely remember hearing a man speak to her after she was shot in the Las Vegas massacre. She soon blacked out and wouldn’t recall anything about the next few weeks.

The mother of four would spend six months in a hospital and endure nine surgeries.

Last week, she finally got a chance to meet the retired Los Angeles firefighter who her family says saved her life.

In an emotional reunion, Don Matthews visited Melanson at her Las Vegas home after her recent hospital release, swallowed up by embrace after embrace from her and her family.

“Without him, I wouldn’t be here — no doubt,” Melanson told CNN’s Erica Hill, who was there for the reunion.

It’s been a long road for Melanson, starting on that night of terror when a man rained gunfire down on thousands of concertgoers from 32nd-floor windows of a Las Vegas hotel and casino.

The gunman killed 58 people and injured about 500 before killing himself. Melanson was at the October 1 concert — the Route 91 Harvest Festival — with her daughters.

It was a Mother’s Day gift from her oldest daughter, Stephanie. Melanson said she had just dragged her daughters to the front of a stage when she heard what she thought were firecrackers.

One bullet struck her, damaging her stomach, spleen, lung and liver.

Matthews saw Melanson and started tending to her. He told her daughters to flee — and reluctantly, they did.

“(He said) we had to get out of here if we want to live,” Stephanie told CNN’s Hill. “And he’s like, ‘I promise I will stay with your mom all the way.’ ”

Melanson said she had an out-of-body experience, and went to heaven.

“It was indescribable, the peace that you felt,” she told Hill. “But I was told it wasn’t my time, that I had to go back.”

That’s when she briefly woke up.

“I could hear Don, the guy who saved my life … and then I blacked out” for the next few weeks, she said.

Matthews, with the help of others, got Melanson out of harm’s way and into a pickup truck. Eventually, she was taken to a hospital.

After 11 anguished hours, her family learned she was alive and in a hospital. Her husband, Steve, rushed to her side.

“I do believe God put everybody in the right place at the right time to save her life, and Don was her guardian angel,” Steve Melanson told Hill.

The Melansons eventually connected with Matthews that month through social media. On Thanksgiving Day, while Matthews and Steve Melanson were being interviewed on CNN, Steve told the retired firefighter he was going to bring him to Las Vegas for a reunion, once Rosemarie was well enough.

Rosemarie Melanson’s health challenges aren’t over; a 10th surgery is scheduled for Friday. But she said she’s anxious to get back to her old life.

Sitting next to her on that reunion day last week, Matthews teared up when Hill asked him whether he thought Rosemarie would survive.

“No,” he said, crying and taking Rosemarie’s hand.

“Never give up,” Matthews said. “Miracles happen. And this one surely did.”