Another Day

March 24, 2011
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The sun sits high in the sky, its reflection glistening across the water. I was ready for another quiet and relaxing Saturday at Eisenhower Park. I settled in and examined my zone which was filled with the patrons and the usual families. Hearing, “Help! Help!” I quickly scanned my area. There were no signs of any distressed swimmers. Then I scanned the whole pool, spotted the small boy in the deep end who was being pulled under water by his much larger friend. Are they just playing around? While trying to decipher if they were playing around or if they were actually distressed, the memory of swimming in my dad’s condo pool being pulled under water by my brother then re-emerging and returning the favor came to mind. The smaller kid freed himself from his friend who then showed the initial signs of drowning: head back, arms vigorously splashing, making no forward progress. He then grabbed onto his friend’s back once again and pulled him back under. That was the moment it was clear this was no game and instead a serious situation, especially since the guard who should have been watching that area did not notice them. The distressed swimmers were not in my zone. The boy made one more cry for help then succumbed to the weight of his friend and was pulled below the water; instantly, I blew my whistle and sprung into action.

A surge of adrenaline washed over me while compact jumping off the stand. Once in the water I quickly swam towards the victims, and before realizing it they were both on my tube and we were almost to the side of the pool. All eyes were on me as we got out of the pool; my manager was already half-way down the pool deck clapping. Unfortunately my hat and sunglasses were sitting like a sunken ship at the bottom of the pool.
This wasn’t the first time I saved someone. I had rescued three people prior to this double save. The saves performed before were minor ones, like picking up a toddler who fell over in the wading pool; and rescuing a small child who showed signs of distress two feet in front of my chair in the shallow end. One time, while subbing at Beachland pool, a girl was drowning within six inches of her mother deep in conversation with another mom she realized her daughter’s situation when my position in the water was no further than two feet from her. This rescue was different. This was the first rescue that would have been fatal if not attended to.

Nothing really registered regarding how important this was till sitting in the guard office with my manager and the two kids as we filled out the incident report. It ends up that the smaller boy who was being pulled under by his friend was a former camper of mine at Camp Asto Wamah, a sleep-away camp I had worked at the year before. He was shaking with fear from the incident and unable to answer questions until we gave him a couple minutes to reassure him he was OK. Just talking with Pat about when he was going to camp this year lifted his spirits instantly. We spoke about what cabin he was going to be in, who he hoped his counselors would be. Thoughts surfaced while in the office- what if while only paying attention to my zone he went under- what would have happened? Would the other guard have noticed?

For a moment while just sitting in my room reflecting on the day, I had never felt so proud not only because in one day setting the highest amount of rescues at Eisenhower for the summer, but mainly because I had saved someone I actually knew. A sea of happiness washed over me while remembering at Camp Asto Wamah teaching Pat the overhead smash in tennis and the different strokes and skills of row boating and swimming. I was embarrassed because I did not even remember him or his name when I was making the rescue. Pat remembered me and even asked if I was going to be working at camp again this summer. While the rescue was important the aftermath of the event was really what stuck with me. When you’re a lifeguard you expect that you will have to rescue people or perform first aid, but never in my wildest dreams had it crossed my mind that one day I would have to rescue someone I actually knew. Life is not predictable and in the future there will be other people who need to be rescued, not necessarily in the pool, but you never know who you will meet in college. Whether it’s helping your dorm mate study, or just being a good friend by giving helpful advice, the power of assisting and doing the right thing will never hurt anyone.

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