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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Around 10:30 Friday night, 17-year-old Jalen Watkins woke up in his room unable to breathe.
“Once I got up I realized I couldn’t breathe particularly well. I realized that my room was eerily darker than it usually is,” he said.
A fire had broken out in the kitchen of his family’s Mayfair home on the 2800 block of Stevens Street. After realizing that the black smoke was even heavier beyond his bedroom door, the high school senior had to make a plan.
“I had only one other option, that was to jump out the window. So I jumped out of my second story window onto the patio,” he said.
Once out, he yelled for help from neighbors but his focus never strayed from his mom, Yvonne, who was still trapped inside.
“I said, ‘Ok I’m coming.’ I put my shoes on and ran out. There were people standing out there and I was asking Jalen where was his mom,” said neighbor Raymond Dillard.
Neighbors like Dillard held Jalen back from running in after his mom but once he heard her groaning near the door, he took action.
“Once we heard her, we broke open the door a neighbor helped we broke open the door grabbed her out,” said Watkins.
His mom suffered extreme burns and is now recovering at Temple University Hospital in a medically-induced coma.
“When I was talking to her one-on-one she opens her eyes and is holding my hand and responding – yes and no – nodding and shaking her head. That brought a lot of joy to me. It let me know my mom is still there,” added Watkins.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the family get back on their feet. Lost along with everything else is Yvonne’s prized cooking equipment needed to run her beloved business, Nela J. Catering or “Jalen” spelled backwards.
An ode to her son who’s quick thinking and brave actions saved her life.
Jalen said that his family should have had a fire plan in place and urged everyone to create one.
As he now helps his mom through her recovery he will also be applying to colleges. Jalen currently maintains a 4.0GPA and proceeds from that GoFundMe me will also help support his future.