To successfully pass the Red Cross certification course, you must be able to swim 300 yards continuously, tread water in deep water for 5 minutes and demonstrate the full understanding of entries into the pool for rescues. This includes rescue techniques and simple first aid. But beyond that, you must be a constant, diligent observer and be able to jump into action at the first sign of trouble.
This happened to me (twice) in the same day, and both rescues taught me a lot about myself.
The first rescue was an eleven-year-old girl from the community day camp who was performing a swim test to grant her access to all depths of the pool on her visits. As she began her lap returning to the shallow end of the pool, she became fatigued and started to flounder. She couldn’t keep her head above water and she was flailing around. I took the appropriate measures and pulled her to the shallow end by shoving my rescue tube in between my chest and her back to prop her into a horizontal position, making it easier to swim her to the ladder to exit the pool. She was very appreciative and vowed to practice harder to pass the swim test next time. Soaking wet with my body coursing with adrenaline, I brought the girl to the pool office and filed an incident report. After catching my breath, I went back up in rotation and continued what I assumed would be a normal work day. About 45 minutes later, I had my second save.
The second girl was about thirteen and was pressured by her friends to go off the diving board; the deep end was about twelve-and-a-half feet. Trepidation filled her quivering steps across the length of the diving board. She screamed as she jumped in, alerting me instantly to jump in and rescue her. I performed the same save that I had done on the first girl and successfully brought her to the ladder in the deep end so she could exit the pool. She thanked me profusely and gave me a hug, a look of admiration coming over her face. My return to the office for an incident report was greeted with high-fives and “Good jobs” from my coworkers, but it took a different meaning for me.
After calming my second adrenaline rush and waiting with the girl for her mother to pick her up, I started to assess the importance of what had happened. Not only had I saved two lives, but I had sprung into action and put into use the extensive practice I had learned to make a profound impact on those two girls. The experiences helped me realize that I can have a monumental effect on someone, even when I am just one individual. It helped reaffirm that all the practice I put in can prevent severe situations from happening and showed my strength and resilience.
There’s something quite symbolic about sitting in the lifeguard chair, surveying others around me. I have the unique vantage point to protect others, but my perspective also allows for an in-depth look at myself. Being a lifeguard for the last three summers has helped transform me into a confident and brave individual. I have redefined the meaning of hard work and determination by coming to work every day, ready to intervene in danger’s path in a split, splashy second. It’s shown me that life can change in an instant and you must be able to adapt, no matter how powerful the force. It’s a feeling unlike any other knowing that I rescued two people, and it’s an experience I wouldn’t have had unless I threw myself into uncharted waters (literally) and changed the course of all the lives involved, including my own.