Early morning emergency at Swan Active Midland

3 December 2020

One early morning in July last year, staff and swimmers at Swan Active Midland faced a heart-pounding start to their day. It was around 6:30am and a regular patron was swimming laps in the main indoor pool – as he did every morning – when he suddenly lost consciousness in the water.

Two nearby swimmers, Karen Kirkby and Sandra Mutch, were the first to notice the elderly man go under water. They immediately signalled to the lifeguards for help, and the two women assisted the man to the edge of the pool.

Pool lifeguard Doug Macaulay was the first staff member on the scene, and he worked with Karen and Sandra to lift the man out of the water. On discovering that the patron was unresponsive, Doug began to perform CPR with assistance from Karen.

Fellow pool lifeguard Jade Howard had also heard the call for help and ran to assist. “After the initial call we thought the patron was suffering from a cramp, however we quickly realised it was more serious and my heart was racing,” recalls Jade.

“I kept telling myself that we need to provide this person with the best possible care we can. It was a split second replaying our process in my head, to quickly racing to get the necessary equipment required to help the patron.” Jade retrieved the oxygen and AED and communicated with team member Stephen Driscoll to call emergency services.

Jade credits her training with being able to respond in a calm and collected manner throughout the emergency. “The lifeguard training gave me a systematic approach to respond, giving us something to refer back to and keep us calm because we had practised so many times in teams with similar scenarios. Supporting my teammates and providing first aid care was the priority and that was what was going through my mind.”

Doug, Jade and Karen all worked together to perform CPR on the man for around 20 minutes until paramedics arrived. Stephen evacuated the pools and provided support to the paramedics. Unfortunately, the patron did not regain consciousness and was later pronounced deceased at hospital from a suspected cardiac arrest.

The actions of all involved in trying to save the man are to be commended, and the group were recently recognised at this year’s Royal Life Saving Bravery Awards. Karen was awarded a Gold Medallion for assisting the swimmer out of the pool and helping the lifeguards with the rescue effort until the end. Doug and Jade were each awarded a Gold Star for their ability to put their training into action in responding to the emergency; it was the first major incident involving CPR for them both. Stephen and Sandra were each awarded a Bravery Commendation for their roles and assistance during the incident.

City of Swan CEO Mike Foley has said, “Bravery isn’t part of the job description for our Swan Active lifeguards and staff. But in extraordinary situations – like the emergency that occurred that day – our staff remained calm and responded promptly while demonstrating exceptional courage and resilience. The City of Swan is immensely proud of our award recipients, they deserve to be commended for their heroic actions.”

Do you know anyone who has responded in an emergency to save, or attempt to save, someone's life? Nominate them for a Royal Life Saving Bravery Award at the link below.

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