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Local College Students Receive National Life-Savers Award

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I am thankful for being able to save that little boy’s life—that was an award enough.

In the summer of 2015, three Red Cross-certified lifeguards rescued a six-year-old boy from drowning at the McNeese State University recreational pool. For their heroic efforts, twin sisters Hannah and Sharon Murrell, and Jacee Bacon were awarded the Red Cross Lifesaver Award earlier this fall.

The Red Cross Lifesaver Award is a national recognition given to individuals who perform a lifesaving act using skills learned through Red Cross health and safety training. It was created to commend extraordinary acts of bravery, compassion, or service. Hannah, Sharon and Bacon demonstrated all three successfully in just their sophomore years at McNeese State.

On June 9, 2015, a children’s summer camp came to the McNeese State recreational pool in Lake Charles to swim. Just as all the campers were entering the pool, one six-year-old boy eagerly jumped in, swallowing a mouthful of water. Sharon Murrell recognized the boy was in danger and took immediate action.

“I first saw the boy completely blue and unconscious in the water,” Sharon Murrell said. “I immediately grabbed him and pulled him out, and went straight into CPR chest compressions.”

Bacon, who had witnessed the incident, ran over to assist her fellow lifeguard while trying to clear the pool and signaling to Hannah Murrell to call 911.

“I heard Jacee yell ‘call 911’,” Hannah Murrell said. “I was closest to the control room so I ran to the phone and called. I then went to assist with getting the rest of the campers and other patrons out of the pool, and lastly I ran over to help with the little boy.” 

By that time, the boy was still unconscious despite Sharon Murrell administering chest compressions. Further complicating the situation, rescue breaths could not be performed as the boy’s jaw was locked shut.

“All I remember was thinking I was going to do everything possible to save this boy,” Sharon Murrell said. “I continued chest compressions for what seemed like forever until he finally regained consciousness.”

An immense feeling of relief washed over everyone at the pool, and shortly after the boy came to, the ambulance arrived to take him to the hospital.

“I remember the child couldn’t stop crying,” Bacon said. “It was heartbreaking. He was so scared and he clenched onto all of our hands until the ambulance came.”

All three lifeguards executed their duties to the highest standard and with the utmost dedication. Their lightning-quick instincts and efficient teamwork were the reason a boy’s life was saved that day. Randy Cooper, the assistant director of the McNeese State recreational facility, nominated Hannah and Sharon Murrell and Bacon for the Lifesaver Award after witnessing their efforts at the pool.

“We were very fortunate to have those three respond that quick,” Cooper said. “Their immediate response made all the difference in the world.”

All three received their lifeguard certification from the Red Cross, and credit their success that day to the skills they learned in training.

“In the moment, you don’t have time to think twice about anything,” said Hannah Murrell. “That’s where the training really played a huge part. Without those skills, I might have frozen up, but instead I knew exactly what I needed to do.”

All three are thankful to receive the Lifesaver Award, but even more thankful for being able to save a life.

“The award reminds me of the good we did,” Bacon said. “I am thankful for being able to save that little boy’s life—that was an award enough. But knowing others appreciate what happened that day is amazing. Hopefully, this will show other people how the Red Cross certification is truly important and can help save a life. 

The Red Cross offers a variety of lifeguarding and swim safety training, as well as first aid, CPR, AED and other health and safety courses all over the state of Louisiana. To sign up go to www.RedCross.org/TakeaClass.