Those that know me can probably guess what caused a majority of my scars. Horses for some. Bikes for others. One's from riding a Tonka Truck down the neighbor's driveway when I was 7. However, I bet you don't know where the one just below my left kneecap came from.
2005 was a year full of changes. I had turned 18. I had graduated from high school. I was making plans to move to Austin and leave my swelteringly hot, smalltown life behind so I could start college at the University of Texas. By June, I was just counting down the days and passing the time by lifeguarding at our city pool, as I had the past three summers.
Pineywoods Summers are sticky, oppressive seasons and my hometown had little to do by way or recreation and relief, but it did have a pool. Working as a lifeguard meant weeks of working on my tan, teaching swim lessons, cleaning the decks, and occasionally jumping in to snag the overly-brave kids who decided too late the water slide wasn't for them. The city pool was the place to be for birthday parties, free-range neighborhood kid adventures, and respite for over-burdened counsellors with groups, like The Boys and Girls Club chapter that visited that day.
I thought I knew what drowning looked like. It was flailing splashing limbs. It was a panicked face and a yelp of, "Miss, MISS, HELP!" It was loud and fast and over as quickly as I got to them.
What I didn't know was that drowning was also quick, but silent. That a little girl could float just a bit too far from the wall and suddenly, her little toes wouldn't bob her quite to the surface anymore. That she wouldn't call for help, because she was already underwater, masked by a sea of her friends splashing and having the best day ever.
The mom who was watching her child go down the waterslide saw her first. Her scream for my attention is something I can still hear, 13 years later. I lept from the stand and ran to the other wall- faster than swimming across- and grabbed her hands, pulling her from the water and arms of the person who brought her up. As another lifeguard called 911, I felt for a pulse. Nothing. I tried again. Nothing. I cleared her airway, wiping her mouth of the foam and debris, and started through the steps I'd been trained on with help from my partner. I'd give 15 compressions, he'd give 2 breaths. 15 compressions. 2 breaths. 15 compressions. 2 breaths.
EMS arrived 1,000 years later, after what was actually only a few minutes. The loaded her still-unmoving body on the gurney and rushed to the hospital. I pleaded with God and the universe for it all to be OK, but we learned soon that she had died. It was only when I dropped my head, sobbing, that I noticed that my knee was covered in blood from diving across the pool deck, desperate to beat the clock.
CPR isn't magic. It isn't like the movies. The person doesn't magically wake up because your hands and breath plead with them to do so. Advanced care, or at least an AED, is required to bring back the dead. CPR just keeps the oxygen moving around. That's what the grief counsellor told me. They told me it wasn't my fault, and it wasn't, not really. But to a lifeguard who failed at guarding a life, that's not an easy thing to ever truly believe.
My knee and my heart still carry the scars of watching a little girl die, right under my hands, and they shouldn't. She should still be here, having "the best day ever.". Her family should have been celebrating her graduation, preparing to move her to college by now. Drowning is preventable, and the work that Colin's Hope does to raise awareness and prevent tragedies like this is crucial. Drowning is a leading cause of death for children, and it doesn't have to be. No one is drown-proof, and everyone on the water benefits from a supportive, aware, and a vigilant community that ensures we all get to live our best days.
I hope you will consider supporting my fundraiser, in memory of this little girl, and in honor of all the ones still out there swimming, depending on us to keep them safe. Thank you!
|Anonymous Friend||06/24/2019||$50.00||Hope this helps! Best of luck with your event.||Sara Kraftcheck||06/24/2019||$50.00||Ruthie and Ruben Reyes||06/24/2019||$25.00||❤️||Adrian Hernandez||06/10/2019||$50.00||Linda Jordaan||06/08/2019||$15.00||Annette Sluder||06/07/2019||$25.00||Alyssa Yarbrough||06/07/2019||$100.00||I remember that phone call.||Kimberly Murphy||06/07/2019||$35.00||Cheryl Paul||06/07/2019||$25.00|