Rescuer to the Rescue

March 20, 2011
By , Ottawa, Canada
During the last year, I worked through the lifeguard classes provided by the Lifesaving Society. I passed the bronze cross level at our local pool the week before we went on a trip. This certification would allow the city of Ottawa to hire me as a barely qualified lifeguard, when I turn sixteen. Little did I imagine that the knowledge I had gained during the training would undergo testing. My family went to Nanaimo to visit relatives in the summer. There, I interceded and averted a catastrophe.

On Vancouver Island, everyone takes advantage of the sun when it appears. As a family outing with our grandparents and other assorted relatives, we drove to nearby Englishman River for a swim. In one section of the river, piles of rocks narrowed the water to a deep, fast zone, which, while entertaining on an inner tube, made it nigh on impossible to swim. A wall of rock, edging the fast zone, kept people from climbing out easily. The rock face became quite high fifty feet further down the river, culminating into a three meter high ledge. I enjoyed leaping off of this protrusion into the frigid water. It was as I prepared myself to jump off the ledge that my mom suddenly rushed over to me shouting, “Quick James, get over here, someone is drowning!”

I carefully bolted over the rock to where she led me. Two ladies were thrashing around in the fast water. Jumping into the water, I grabbed the one nearest to me. As I was much taller than her, my feet could touch the bottom with my head above the water. I held her up in one hand while I reassessed the situation. Unexpectedly, one of their companions jumped into the speeding river, planning to save the other woman. This plan, unfortunately, had a huge flaw; he could not swim either. Being the same height as the ladies, he started to struggle in the current as well. Stepping forwards, I snagged him with my left hand. Now, I had one person in each hand as I moved down the river, away from the current. I had grabbed two victims, but the second lady was still in the water. Suddenly, the man broke away from me and somehow reached the slippery rock wall! Miraculously, people on the rock managed to pull him out of the water to safety.

Eventually, I worked my way over to the beach on the other side of the river with the terrified lady. She was babbling about her “slipper” and wanting to have it back. Looking down the river I saw her shoe floating by the rocks. Leaving her with a bystander on the beach, I swam down to her shoe and returned it to her. When her companions arrived with her towel, I left and strode back across the bridge, my heart pounding. Apparently, another bystander had pulled out the other drowning lady, and she joined her friend safely on the bank. When I returned to my family, everyone congratulated me for my good rescue.
On the way home, thinking over the rescue, I noticed many flaws in what I had done. My first error occurred when I left the victim to retrieve her shoe. When I returned to her, I did not stay to treat for shock, an action that should occur in every rescue. If I had performed a rescue like that in a lifeguard exam, I would have failed immediately. The classes had prepared me for the rescue, but adrenaline erased my mind of the correct procedure when the time came for the real test. Despite these failings, I succeeded in rescuing the drowning duo from Englishman River, and what could have been a devastating day at the beach ended in joy. I will soon be completing the final level of my lifeguard training, and I know that this experience will make me understand the realities of how important this instruction is.

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