Two saves, one assist

No, these are not baseball statistics. They are SON statistics!

This is Andrew’s second summer working as a lifeguard at White Water, our local water theme park. All the guards receive extensive initial training (which they pay for) and then weekly on-going training that includes practice in rescuing people and dealing with all kinds of emergencies. Last year, Andrew worked all summer without having to personally handle any crisis situations.

One month into this summer, it’s been a different story.

First of all, he got the highest possible grade on his Ellis audit. Ellis is the organization that trains and certifies the White Water lifeguards, and they show up occasionally (incognito) and audit a guard. That is, they watch him carefully to see how he’s doing his job, and sometimes they do or create some situation to see how the guard responds. Generally, guards don’t know who is being audited; they only find out after the fact when they are told by their supervisor what grade they got.

Andrew is certified as an LG2 (he began his lifeguarding “career” as an LG1 last summer), which means he can work the wave pool in addition to all the other rides and slides. The wave pool is huge and six feet deep at one end. It’s the setting in which more serious incidents are more likely to occur, so some additional training and experience is required for those guards. I think there are four to six guards on the wave pool at a time.

One day a few weeks ago, Andrew was working the wave pool, when a male guest hollered at him, “This lady’s having a seizure!” Andrew immediately stopped the wave machine and jumped in. The woman was quite large (350+ pounds), on an inner tube, and completely unconscious. Andrew got her to the side of the pool, and then it took some six guards and/or guests working together to get her out of the pool and onto a backboard. An ambulance was called, and she was beginning to come around by the time the EMTs arrived.

Andrew was taken into the office and told he could go home, but he didn’t want to. The management questioned him to make sure he was OK emotionally and able to continue doing his job, and he was fine. But I will say that when he got home that night and shared what had happened, he was a pretty somber fellow. I think the fragility of life really hit him.

Then just a day or two later, he was not working and went to White Water as a guest to hang out with friends. As he was walking by the wave pool, there was an emergency. A female guard had jumped in to save a kid who was drowning. She had followed protocol;  first turning off the wave machine and notifying the office of the emergency, which should have brought immediate assistance. She had jumped in and – alone – gotten him out of the pool. Now she was working on the kid alone, performing CPR with a crowd of guests around, but STILL no help had arrived, and Andrew was appalled. He stepped up, took charge, ordered the crowd to back away and give them space, and maintained control of the situation till more help arrived. He was obviously not in uniform, and when a belligerent guest asked him who he thought he was, Andrew said (very firmly), “An off-duty guard. Get over it.” The guest dropped his ‘tude, the boy recovered, and management commended Andrew for his stepping in to assist as he did.

White Water guards wear lanyards with their whistles on them, and when they save someone in some way, they are issued a bead to display on their lanyard. Andrew received a bead for his rescue of the woman who had the seizure.

A couple weeks ago, he was again on stand at the wave pool in the afternoon. He’d been treated rudely by some guests, and he was pretty fed up with the antics of a group of young people who obviously couldn’t swim and were clowning around, pretending that they were drowning and hollering at him. I’m sure it’s difficult to stay calm when you’re being provoked like that, you can’t retaliate, and you have to discern who is and who isn’t really in danger. The guards at the wave pool have to scan their assigned area every ten seconds, and on one of Andrew’s scans, he saw a young lady (who clearly couldn’t swim) fall out of her tube and begin to go down. It was like the boy who cried wolf. The guy with her was trying to save her, but he was actually drowning both of them, so Andrew and another guard, Haley, both jumped in and did a two-man rescue. Both guests were OK.

Andrew later asked his head boss about a bead for that “save,” and John told him he’d take care of it “tonight.” Afterwards, Andrew felt bad about having asked about it, and he texted John. Here’s a copy of their conversation:

A: Hey John, I’m sorry about asking for the bead so soon after everything happened. That was selfish of me. If you choose not to give me one, I understand.

J: Ha! It wasn’t selfish at all. Well deserved my friend. The only reason I said “tonight” was because I figured you’d jump at the chance to go home. I’m super proud of you. You have handled yourself so incredibly well in some very pressure-filled situations. You’ll get it tomorrow if you’re here.  = )

A: Okay, haha. Thank you! I just didn’t want you thinking that a bead was my main motivation for saving someone.  = {

J: Andrew… You’re one of my favorites and one of the best and most exceptional kids I know. You’re an incredible lifeguard, but you’re a better young man. I know beads don’t motivate you to save people. Maybe free food, but not beads.  = )

A: I’m not going to say that I cried, but I came pretty close [referring to when he read John’s comment previous comment]. That means a whole heck of a lot to me and I appreciate you and everything you do for us lifeguards probably more than you’ll ever know. Thanks for making me look forward to coming into work every day.  = )

Wow! How’s that for an atta-boy?!? I’m so proud of our exceptional, incredible son that if I were wearing a dress shirt, my buttons would pop!

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2 Responses to “Two saves, one assist”


  1. 1 J.R. June 30, 2017 at 6:27 am

    I sure enjoyed that read!


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