Saturday, January 7, 2012

How NOT to save a life

I love swimming.  For as long as I can remember, I just loved getting into the water and gliding around like a fish.  My parents sent me to swimming lessons from an early age, and I actually continued on with them all the way until I got my lifeguard training in high school.

I excelled in my training and passed all the tests with flying colors.  It's the things that weren't part of the training but happened anyways that really stick out in my mind, though.  Of course I still retain all of the First Aid and CPR knowledge and how to rescue a drowning person without inadvertently killing them, but that wasn't all.

My most vivid memory from during the training is from one Sunday afternoon while we were practicing drowning and saving in the deep end of the pool.  I usually tried to avoid playing the drowning person because I didn't actually trust all of my classmates to save me properly.  In fact, one time I wound up having to save myself because the other girl was just taking too long.  After all, I didn't want to actually drown.

At any rate, our instructor wasn't in the pool with us that day because she was having sinus problems.  There were little kids having swimming lessons in the shallow end, and one group of them was in water around 4.5 feet deep.  There was this big plastic bench a few feet away from where they were clinging to the wall for them to stand on when they got out there.

My teacher was walking along the side of the pool, fully dressed, when she noticed on of the boys slip under while the lifeguard was helping another child.  So being the good rescuer that she is, she dove right into the pool to save him - and bashed her head against the plastic bench.  Moments later the lifeguard saved this poor, disoriented instructor, after she had plucked the boy out of the water (he was totally fine, by the way).  My instructor, however, was not.  In addition to being sopping wet in her regular clothing in Chicago in February, she managed to get herself a concussion.  We taught ourselves for the rest of the day.

Aside from the lessons that can be gleaned from this on how NOT to save a drowning person, I think that the more important lesson is simply - look before you leap.  Not just when you are diving into the shallow end of a swimming pool, but with everything in life.  If you make a hasty decision, you could wind up with a nasty smack on the head.  If you take even just three seconds (in the case of my teacher) or a few minutes or a few days in other cases to assess the situation and think things over, then you can avoid that plastic bench altogether and save the drowning kid in the process.

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