ROCKMART, Ga. - A Northwest Georgia man paralyzed after diving into a creek to save a 4-year-old girl from drowning nearly three weeks ago has died from complications resulting from his injuries, authorities said Friday.
Polk County Coroner Trey Litesey confirmed that Michael Patterson, 43, of Rockmart, died early Friday at Redmond Regional Medical Center in Rome. A message to supporters posted on a website to raise money for Patterson's medical treatment said his family was with him when he died.
Patterson was hailed as a hero after authorities credited him with rescuing a girl he saw vanish in Euharlee Creek on June 8. His own 9-year-old son watched Patterson dive in, and witnesses told police he somehow managed to pull the girl from the water. But Patterson also struck his head during the dive and ended up severing his spinal cord, leaving him paralyzed.
"It is such a sad story," said Rockmart Police Chief Keith Sorrells. "They told our officer on Day 1 that there was only a 50-50 chance he would make it."
Though the exact cause of death was unclear, Sorrells said Patterson had contracted pneumonia as well as a bacterial infection and had suffered a blood clot since arriving at the hospital.
After he was injured, Patterson's mother said he had just taken a job installing Sheetrock and did not have health insurance. A group called the Friends of Mike Patterson Trust launched a website to raise money for his medical care.
It wasn't known Friday how much money the group raised. But its website said Friday that Patterson had received more than 60,000 prayers and messages of support from people worldwide on social media.
Patterson's funeral was scheduled for Sunday at the Olin L. Gammage and Sons Funeral Home in Cedartown, with a visitation today. The Friends of Mike Patterson Trust said in a statement that his family was requesting privacy during both and was not granting interviews.