Local lifeguards place 10th in competition


September 01, 2004|By Dana Klosner-Wehner | Dana Klosner-Wehner,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

DAN LOTTES, Dasher Green pool manager, feverishly applied CPR to a "patient" who had a seizure and fell unconscious. Kayleigh Brosi, head lifeguard at the Hawthorne pool, and Alex Wertz, lifeguard at the Clemens Crossing pool, pulled two "swimmers" from a pool after lawn chairs landed on top of them during a tornado.

The challenges, reported by a Columbia Association lifeguard team, were part of an international lifeguard competition, sponsored by Jeff Ellis and Associates, held Aug. 5 and 6 at Six Flags Hurricane Harbor in Jackson, N.J.

The association's team, which included Clary's Forest manager Lindsay Hall and Dickinson pool manager Kelly Baugh, who went along to act as a patient, took 10th place against 22 teams - 20 of them from the United States and two from other countries, said Darby van Conover, assistant aquatics director for the Columbia Association.

The association's lifeguards are trained using the Ellis and Associates National Pool and Waterpark Lifeguard Training Course, van Conover said. The competition was open to Ellis and Associates clients.

The team made it to the international competition after placing third at the northeast regional competition, held July 20 and 21 at Splish Splash water park in Riverhead, N.Y.

Another Columbia Association team competed in the regional contest, taking ninth place against 19 teams. It was an excellent showing, but teams had to place in the top three in the regional to make it to the international contest, van Conover said.

Participants on the second regional team were Rachael Lewis and Scott Perry, assistant managers at Clary's Forest pool; Matt Kaufman, assistant manager of Dickinson pool; Dickinson lifeguard Michelle Nash; and Clary's Forest head lifeguard Brian McFee, who went along as a patient.

The regional and international competitions involved rescue scenarios that required more than just strong swimming skills. Scenarios started on the pool deck before the guards reached the water; some involved paying close attention to find victims who were hidden under debris or under the water's surface.

"We were stopped at the top of a hill overlooking the Lazy River," said Lottes, who is studying to be a paramedic, describing a scenario in the international contest. "The guy in charge of the scenario said, `A tornado just went through the park - and you are here to help.' "

"There were lounge chairs everywhere," Lottes continued. "In the pool, there were two victims under lounge chairs. There was a girl walking toward us with a laceration on her elbow. There was a guy with a bloody nose. And there was a patient lying in a pool of blood under a ladder."

Of course, none of the incidents were real; the victims were all volunteers. But the team members had to think on their feet.

"It was confusing at first," said team captain Hall, who took care of the mock bloody nose and the elbow laceration. "We all knew our strengths: who's best at first aid and who's best at water rescues. So we all looked at each other and knew what to do."

As Brosi and Wertz pulled the volunteers out of the water, Lottes placed a backboard over the pool of blood and put on gloves as a precaution.

"In the middle of the situation, the judges threw out questions like, `Name the five stages of a wet drowning in order,' " van Conover said. "It was to test their ability to think while under pressure."

"We were judged on how well we worked as a team," Lottes said.

"You learn a lot about teamwork and trusting your teammates," said Kaufman, who competed in the regionals. "You want to do everything yourself, but you can help more people if you work together."

At the regional competition, as the guards were walking into the pool, there were people off to the side engaged in a mock barbecue gone wrong.

"There was a huge fireball," van Conover said. "People had burns to their eyes, face and chest. Someone was eating a hot dog and started choking."

"You learn to triage people, and who has priority," said Wertz, who is also a volunteer firefighter. "You learn to assess the situation even while people are shouting in your face."

The Columbia teams practiced four days a week for about two hours a day during June and July.

"You feel really good after a practice; you just feel like you can handle anything," said Hall, who said she has performed more than 100 rescues in her eight years as a lifeguard - two of them in the past two weeks.

Hall said she has been around the water since she was a little girl, when her father would scuba dive, but it was one incident in particular that made her want to be a lifeguard.

"I was at a pool party when I was 12," she said. "Someone was drowning. His friend went in to help; then they both started to go down. The lifeguard saved them. That just always stayed with me."

Hall recently saved a little girl who swam out too far.

"About five or six kids came up to me after that and said things like, `I just thought it was really cool the way you saved her,' " Hall said.

"Some people become a lifeguard [and] then don't like it because they have to sit in the sun. Then, when they are not in the chair, they have to pick up trash," said Hall, who is studying to be a labor and delivery nurse at Howard Community College. "But they never had a rescue. Every time I have a rescue, it reminds you that because of you, that kid is OK."

Columbia Association lifeguards are required to be at least 15 years old and complete 48 hours of training. Applications are being accepted now for a November training class. Information: Darby van Conover 410-312-6332.

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