A surgeon plunged into Lake Michigan's waters roiled by rip tides and rough waves to save two young boys, but died despite his wife's frantic efforts to revive him with mouth to mouth resuscitation, police and his wife said today.
Dr. Donald Liu, chief of pediatric surgery at the University of Chicago Medicine's Comer Children's Hospital, saw the two boys, who were friends of the family, swept up in the water. Despite protests from his own children, who were scared about the dangerous conditions, Liu went in to save them.
"You couldn't stop him," Liu's wife, Dr. Dana Suskind, told ABCNews.com today. "He always did the right thing." The two boys made it back to the shore near Cherry Beach in Chikaming, but Liu, 50, did not survive the 6-foot swells and treacherous currents.
"After he saved those boys and I couldn't see him, they finally found him and they pulled him from the water. I tried to do mouth-to-mouth, but I knew. And it was so painful," Suskind said between sobs.
"Everything Liu did, everything he talked about was always for the children," said Jeffrey Matthews, chairman of the Department of Surgery at the University of Chicago Medicine. "And so the tragedy is that he died, of course, as a hero doing what he did every day, which was saving children."
Suskind, crying at times, gave the emotional interview the day after her husband drowned because she wanted her three children to read about how great their father was. "He wore scrubs all the time. He would've gotten married in his scrubs if he could. He was so understated, but really such a huge stature," Suskind said.
Despite long days in the office, Liu would always come home ready to play with his children Genevieve, 13, Asher, 10, and Amelie, 7. He especially loved throwing the baseball around, a pastime that meant a lot to Asher.
"I'm really sad that my dad died because every time he would come home from work at 5 o'clock, even though he didn't have to, he would play baseball with me and we would go in the backyard," Asher said. "We would always watch the White Sox together."