Lifeguards prepare for the worst, and hope they never have to use the skills they constantly practice.
The worst-case scenario became reality for the guards on duty at the Hood River Aquatic Center Tuesday afternoon.
At about 4:45 p.m., a boy swimming in the deep end paddled to the side of the pool breathing heavily. Shortly after he lost consciousness and slipped under water.
Within seconds a lifeguard was in the water pulling him to the surface and then to the deck of the pool.
He checked the boy’s pulse and breathing, and did not find signs of either.
While the lifeguard and another Parks and Recreation employee started CPR, two other lifeguards helped clear the pool deck while another went to comfort the boy’s family.
“We practice and practice this same scenario time and time again; it paid off when we needed it and they executed it perfectly,” said Hood River Parks and Recreation Assistant Superintendant Scott Baker, who witnessed the lifeguards jumping into action.
After two rounds of CPR the boy regained semi-consciousness and began coughing up water.
While CPR was being performed, 9-1-1 was called and EMTs from the Hood River Fire station — across a parking lot from the pool — arrived even before the emergency was toned out over the dispatch system.
Captain Manual Irusta of Hood River Fire said someone shouted out from the pool that assistance was needed and EMTs who happened to be out in the parking lot responded to the distress call.
“It was pretty darn immediate,” Baker said.
Once the EMTs arrived the lifeguards then passed care over to them and the boy was transported Providence Hood River Memorial hospital and then to a Portland-area hospital, where he is reportedly in stable condition.
“By the time we got to his side he was already breathing on his own,” Irusta said.
Baker said the Parks and Recreation staff could not be more proud of the way the lifeguards handled themselves. After a debriefing the day following the incident, they will be holding a thank-you get-together for everyone on shift during the rescue.
“You hope an accident like this never happens,” Baker said. “And to watch them do their assigned roles just like they had been trained was nice to see.”
Baker stressed that with so much water available for recreation in the Gorge, it is a good idea to be as prepared as possible, particularly during the summer.
“You can never have too many swim lessons,” he said.
As for the lifeguard who went into the water to pull the boy out, Baker said he was on a previously scheduled vacation later this week.
A well-deserved one.