Teenage lifeguards' life-saving actions a reminder of CPR value

Thursday, August 31, 2017

July 11, 2017, could have been remembered for all the wrong reasons.

It could have gone down as a dark day where a young girl lost her life in a public swimming facility in Cape Girardeau, followed by all the dark aftermath that accompany such tragedies — heartbreaking headlines, a procession of tears, ceaseless guilt and finger pointing.

Fortunately, when the Southeast Missourian reported on the incident the following day, the headline read “Official: Girl, 5, nearly drowns at Cape Splash.” The story told of two lifeguards who pulled her out and performed rescue breathing. While all parties concerned would choose the events of that day never occurred, all are thankful the day will be remembered for quick, decisive action and a best-case scenario for the drama that played out. Jayna Timpe and Grant Wilson, working as lifeguards the summer before their senior years at Notre Dame Regional High School, rose to the occasion. The two 17-year-olds put their life-saving skills to work, pulling a girl from the water and executing their CPR training to revive her.

Keeping your calm under such intense conditions is not easy, but the two did just that with the reassuring presence and words of a nurse who emerged from the crowd. This was a life-or-death situation, and the actions of these two heroic adolescents swung the balance in favor of life in the critical moments. Their swift action is to be commended. While the girl and family remain anonymous, a loss of a young life would have grieved us all.

Timpe and Wilson had help in the rescue, and all are to be saluted. The two were among 20 lifeguards on duty that day, and all put into motion a plan designed for such crisis. Cape Girardeau Parks and Recreation Department’s division manager Penny Williams, whose duties include overview of the Cape Splash Family Aquatic Center, and Stephanie Buehler, the department’s aquatics director in charge of CPR training and lifeguard certification, also are to be commended along with first responders.

“They prepared me really well for it, because I knew what to do, and I did it,” Wilson told Southeast Missourian reporter Jeff Breer in a recent follow-up story. I didn’t have to think about anything.”

It’s reassuring to the public to actually see how well the lifeguards were prepared.

“I was very proud of them because they couldn’t have done anything any better,” Buehler said. “To have that happen, that’s the last thing you want to happen at your facility, but I was very pleased with the outcome and what they did.”

Pools are meant for relaxation and summer fun, but the sad reality is accidents do happen from time to time, and sadly some end in a worst-case scenario. This one did not, and it reinforced a valuable lesson.

“There’s a small possibility of things happening like this, but you have to be prepared, because they do happen, and when they do happen, if you’re not prepared, things could go way wrong,” Timpe said.

That day was a hard one for both teens, and one they will remember for the rest of their lives. They’d prefer that day had been like any other, but their memories should also be a source of thankfulness and strong self-esteem. As a community we’re both proud and thankful.

Timpe and Wilson also demonstrated the value of CPR, training that is readily available and something we should all know. We also thank them for that reminder.

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