My heart drops every time I think about the boy’s body sinking to the bottom of the pool on that one, beautiful day in May. It was the beginning of a promising summer full of endless hot days working as a lifeguard and hanging around friends at my quaint neighborhood pool.
Starting my second year as a lifeguard at my pool, I was looking forward to the expected unlimited free supply of popsicles and the luxury of earning $8.50 an hour while sitting around and watching people. Before that summer, I had never really considered the seriousness of the title, a lifeguard. It was not until the moment my fellow lifeguard and I dragged him from the deepest part of our pool -- his motionless face and his chest failing to rise and fall – that I realized how serious my role as a lifeguard is.
The day started off like any other busy day as I took my usual spot up in the chair and let my mind wander freely. Only a couple of moments before the drowning, I was reflecting upon some facts I learned in my lifeguarding course. I could clearly hear the voice of my underpaid and overworked first-aid instructor in my head as she said, “It takes the human lungs approximately five minutes to completely fill up with water, but luckily it only takes the human nervous system a mere second to recognize danger.”
Thanks to biology and my extensive training, as soon as I heard the other lifeguard blow the emergency whistle, I leaped into action by clearing the pool deck and screaming to another lifeguard, "Call 9-1-1, NOW!" As others around the pool, including some lifeguards, moved away from the scene in horror, I quickly rushed to pull the boy out of the unforgiving water.
His eyes were rolled back, mucus covered his face, and his body was completely limp as if he were dead.
He was dead.
Fortunately, two other lifeguards and I performed multiple rounds of ventilation perfectly and were able to revive him. As soon as he awoke, the boy looked directly at me, wide-eyed and coughing violently.
For weeks I replayed different scenarios of the drowning in my head. How did I not see him struggling? What would have happened if he had not been revived?
As soon as the boy opened his fearful eyes and regained consciousness, I too drifted into a new state of awareness. Now, as I continue to lifeguard each summer and enjoy the free popsicles and good company, I do so with more vigilance and confidence. While memories from the horrific trauma sometimes revisit me, I take pride in the fact that I courageously helped save a life and if I had not been there, the boy might not be alive today.
The day of the drowning made me realize that in the face of danger, I am a couragous leader.