Being prepared for emergencies isn’t just knowing what to do; it’s knowing what to look for. For lifeguard Jalina Ray, that skill made the difference between a near-miss and a tragedy.
It was June 23, 2014, at the Shapiro Aquatics Park in Owings Mills, Maryland, a typical day with campers and nearby residents enjoying an early summer swim. Ray was on duty, sitting in the raised lifeguard chair overlooking the pool.
Ever watchful, she had already noticed 8-year-old Alex Torres swimming at a depth of five feet with a mask and snorkel. At first he seemed comfortable in the water, but the lifeguard soon noticed something unusual in his movements. To her trained eye, his quick breathing and the way he was using his arms to propel his body to stay upright looked erratic.
She quickly signaled to fellow lifeguard Andrew Minkin who was positioned closer to the boy. Both guards then called to a teen standing beside Alex and asked whether the smaller boy was playing or in trouble. The teen nudged the boy and when he didn’t respond, lifted him out of the water and passed him to Minkin on the pool deck.
Meanwhile, Ray sounded the alarm and began the process of clearing the pool. Hearing the emergency signal, another lifeguard, Jennifer Siegel, ran over to provide assistance.
At this point, the young boy was turning blue and not breathing. As Siegel and Minkin positioned the small boy for rescue breaths, the boy began to vomit, and they rolled him onto his side to clear his airway. These simple actions made a big difference. As soon as his airway was cleared, Alex became responsive and was eventually able to speak.
The two lifeguards started Alex on oxygen while waiting for the EMTs. The boy was taken to the hospital, where it was later determined that water in his snorkel triggered an asthma attack. Trying to get air, Alex had pulled off his mask and snorkel and ended up inhaling water, losing consciousness.
Thanks to Ray’s well-trained eyes and the fast actions of all the lifeguards, Alex was quickly revived. The three lifeguards all received the Red Cross Lifesaving Award, given to professional rescuers who save or sustain a life outside of a medical setting as part of one’s duty to respond.
Good outcomes like these are no accident; all three lifeguards had been trained by the American Red Cross.
For 100 years, the Red Cross has trained lifeguards to protect the nation's families at swimming pools, water parks, recreation center, camps and other aquatic facilities. In fact, the Red Cross is the leading lifeguard training organization in the country, instructing nearly 200,000 lifeguards annually over the last few years.
Don’t leave it to chance; make sure your lifeguarding skills are the best they can be. Registering for classes is just a click away at redcross.org/takeaclass.