The date was July 27th, 2014. It was a cloudy and eerie Sunday afternoon; middle of summer and I relished my time swimming laps at the community pool. It opened for locals on Memorial Day and closed on Labor Day, that’s when and where I practiced my favorite sport.
The forecast of the day said Thunderstorms in the afternoon and the pool closes for an hour once thunder is heard. I planned to get in, swim my laps and get out.
I walked in and noticed that there were not too many swimmers given the forecast, I walked over to the lanes trying to spot an empty spot, it was the third lane from the left. I pulled a chair under the canopy to rest my bag, I wanted my gear to be dry in case rain started early. As I’m getting myself ready, I peer over the lane and I notice a swimmer near the wall, I guess I was late claiming the spot.
I walk over to get a closer look and the middle aged man was face down near the wall, at first I thought he was fixing his goggles or practicing holding his breath, so I figured I’ll give him a minute then ask him if I can share the lane with him. I started to get nervous as he wasn’t moving much, still face down, arms floating next to his body. I reached down from the edge of the pool and touched his shoulder; his body was cold. He didn’t react to my touch. At that point I panicked, I started yelling at the young, high school-age, lifeguard sitting in the high-chair across the 25-meter pool. The young guard was clueless on the status of this swimmer and quickly blew his whistle.
I tried unsuccessfully to pull the man out of the pool as I waited for the other guards to come, they ran about 250 meters from their camp to the edge of the pool and helped me pull the man out. He looked late thirties or early forties, he seemed fit and wore a professional swimsuit and goggles. My first thought was, this man is a swimmer, I think I’ve seen him before getting his workout in, sort of, like me.
As he laid breathless on his back next to the pool edge, the young lifeguards proceeded to try to revive him using CPR, it was obvious that they were panicking too. An older lady that is a frequent visitor of the pool took charge, she talked to the guards and motivated them to remember their training, to keep up the pace, to do better. they tried for a good fifteen minutes, first by hand in a conventional manner, taking turns pressing his chest to a fast beat, and later using a portable electrical shock machine. the only reaction they got from the man was throwing up whatever was in his stomach, it wasn’t much.
His body seemed blue, cold and lifeless, but everyone stayed hopeful. Multiple people called the police right away and reported the incident. The ambulance arrived in about ten minutes; they drove up to a back gate designed for vehicular access. This is the point in time I started to lose hope.
The ambulance parked at the gate which was about 200 meters west of the pool and on the opposite side from where we were located, this meant that they will have to hustle around the big pool to get to us. There were two male EMTs and each had a bag in hand with emergency aid gear. I expected the two men to rush to our aid, I thought I’d see them running, jogging, or fast pacing. but no! they walked, at a gentle pace, as if to say, we’ve seen this a thousand times before, there is not much we can do here poolside.
I resented them for it, it took them valuable minutes to get to our location and they were of no help to the man. After quick observation they decided they need to take him to the hospital. The man was announced dead later that afternoon at the nearby hospital in my hometown, local news reported it.
I think this incident on that gray eerie afternoon changed my life. I witnessed a 44 years old fit male with a family and kids lose his life in a blink of an eye. Was it a heart attack? Did he hit his head and lost consciousness? Did he have a stroke? I’m not entirely sure. one thing for certain, this man died doing something he loved and that softened the blow for me. It was somewhat of a happy ending.
On a side note, I lost faith in emergency response personnel that day, their relaxed attitude and smug faces still nauseates me to this day.