2018 Bravery Awards - Cockburn ARC Lifeguard Team

6 November 2018

Royal Life Saving WA recently commended 45 brave life savers at the 2018 Bravery Awards, seven of whom were Cockburn ARC Lifeguards, Pete Delaney, Andrew Macray, Rhiannon Keel, Michael Pinkham, Stuart Mack, Sam Hendry and Josh Wood, who were awarded Gold Star Bravery Awards for their efforts in rescuing a woman who underwent a mental health crisis at the aquatic centre.

In January this year, the team at Cockburn ARC were called upon to respond to a mental health emergency. Lifeguard Pete Delaney entered the water in the 50m pool at the recently opened centre, to assist a woman who’d been displaying unusual behaviour. He attempted to hold the woman’s head above the surface, as she actively tried to propel herself back into the pool.

Duty Manager Michael joined Pete to assist, after radioing for help. Lifeguards Josh Wood and Andrew Macray soon arrived with oxygen equipment and a defibrillator, also entering the water to try to keep the woman safe. Pete then got out of the pool to clear other patrons from the area.

Operations Team Leader Rhiannon Keel and Lifeguard Sam Hendry heard the calls for assistance and went to provide support.

Both Sam and Rhiannon entered the water, as the woman repeatedly pushed Michael and Josh away, propelling herself to the bottom of the pool. Each time she surfaced she told the lifeguards to leave her alone. The woman was eventually supported and removed from the pool thanks to the efforts of four lifeguards, however she then threw herself back into the water.

When the lifeguards again got in the water to assist she began lashing out, trying to hit and bite them. The lifeguards managed to get her to the side of the pool, where Michael got out and lifted her from the water with Andrew.

The team remarked, "The reason this incident was particularly challenging to deal with was due to the mental health crisis that the woman was suffering. She was aggressive and combative towards her rescuers, making the situation much harder to work through."

The woman was taken to the 50m grandstand where Rhiannon administered oxygen until paramedics and police arrived. The lifeguards provided outstanding patient care, administering first aid and considering the woman’s comfort by supplying privacy screens and blankets. She was eventually taken away for further treatment by paramedics.

A representative from Cockburn ARC said, "It was critical that the team were there to assist her at that time, due to the seriousness of the situation. They performed an unusual delivery of care in what were very trying circumstances."

In what was a very complex rescue - due to the patient suffering an acute mental health crisis - these relatively young and inexperienced lifeguards performed extremely well, ensuring the woman remained safe while also maintaining their responsibility to ensure the safety of other patrons.

Cockburn ARC management commented, "Mental health and substance abuse is a very serious social issue, and our young staff handled the situation incredibly maturely and sensitively, protecting the patient even when that meant from herself."

"We were thankfully able to deliver her safely to medical professionals, hopefully intervening on what may have had a tragic outcome for the woman and her young daughter who was also in the centre at the time."

The patient was able to receive the emergency care she needed and left the centre unharmed.

The Royal Life Saving Society highly commend the Cockburn ARC team for their courageous efforts and award the team Gold Star Bravery Awards.

If you would like to nominate someone for next year’s Bravery Awards, please click on the following link.

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