Heart attack victim saved by Cockburn ARC staff

29 October 2020
In June this year, staff at Cockburn Aquatic and Recreation Centre (Cockburn ARC) were called upon to react to a serious emergency when a patron suffered a heart attack while swimming.

The actions of six staff members were recognised recently at the 2020 Royal Life Saving Bravery Awards, reflecting the true team effort displayed between them. The six awardees were: Lifeguards Adam Anistino and Tamila Andreeva, Operations Team Leader Rhiannon Keel, Duty Manager Jennifer Littlejohn, Operations Coordinator Sarahjayne Whiteley and Swim School Supervisor Tayliah Zimmer.

“The patron was swimming laps in our 50-metre pool, when he suddenly stopped and went face down,” said Rhiannon. “Adam Anistino spotted him instantly and initiated the rescue process by calling a code blue and then diving in to retrieve him. Tamila Andreeva received the call and notified myself and Jennifer Littlejohn to provide assistance on her way to collect the defibrillator and the oxygen.”

Adam towed the man to the edge of the pool where Rhiannon and Jennifer, assisted by two members of the public, removed him from the water. Together they assessed him and determined that he was not breathing and was unresponsive. “I was thinking a million miles a minute and just knew we were going to have to administer resuscitation,” recalls Rhiannon. “It was confronting to see, and I was thinking automatically.”

Rhiannon commenced CPR while Tamila prepared the defib and Adam prepared a breathing mask and oxygen therapy. Additional support was provided by Tayliah Zimmer and Sarahjayne Whiteley, who phoned emergency services, relayed information to staff, provided equipment and supplies and evacuated other patrons at the facility.

A defibrillator shock was administered by Jennifer, and the team continued three rounds of CPR until the man, thankfully, regained consciousness. He was taken to hospital to undergo surgery and is continuing his recovery from the incident.

Adam, Tamila, Rhiannon and Jennifer all received Gold Star Bravery Awards as primary responders in the incident, and Sarahjayne and Tayliah received Bravery Commendations for the secondary support they provided. 

Rhiannon is incredibly proud of the way her team responded to the incident. “They were professional, diligent, methodical and compassionate. Each person knew their role and focused on that role trusting that the others would complete their part. The regular, diverse and ongoing training we’ve completed as a team has led to that degree of trust, as well as taught us the skills to apply that knowledge successfully.”

She urges everyone to complete some basic first aid or CPR training. “This could have happened anywhere, but I’m glad it happened in a place full of people with the knowledge and equipment to help him. Defibrillators are readily available in lots of different public places and knowing how to use them unarguably saves lives. I would absolutely recommend people equip themselves with the knowledge to provide emergency care, especially CPR.”

It only takes 3 hours to learn CPR and could make all the difference to someone in a similar situation. Everyone can be a lifesaver – equip yourself with the knowledge today:
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