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Sugarwood training pays off for everyone

Two Farragut teenagers put their lifeguard training to the test Sunday, July 1, when a 10-year-old boy hit his head on the diving board.

“This little kid, [Abel Ector,] decided he wanted to do a back flip off the diving board. He came off a little high instead of out, and when he came up to complete his turn, he smacked his head on the diving board,” Britt Dowden, lifeguard at Sugarwood community pool, said. “He just got out of the pool. He seemed to be fine; he wasn’t unconscious or anything.”

Michael James, the other lifeguard on duty, said he didn’t know anything was wrong until Dowden blew his whistle.

“I saw [Ector’s] head was covered in blood, so I blew my whistle, got people out of the pool. I grabbed my lifeguarding tube and ran over to him. By the time Britt got over to him, he had already pulled himself out of the pool,” he said. “I put him into a thing called C-spine, that’s where you hold his head in line with his back. I told the other lifeguard to go get the backboard.”

Dowden, a rising sophomore at Farragut High School, said they immobilized Ector until Rural Metro arrived.

“We did a dry-land backboard, and just held gauze on the injury. There was blood pouring out. We got him on the backboard, because we didn’t know if he hurt his neck or anything, and we just had to assume worse-case scenario,” he said. “We had to run a little walk-through with him; ask him what his name was, how old he was, if he knew where he was at. He didn’t seem to have any problems answering. He seemed to be O-K, which is a great thing.

“He hit that diving board pretty good, so it was pretty scary. When E-M-S arrived, they checked him and everything. He was O-K. They took him off in the ambulance.”

James, a rising senior at FHS, didn’t panic, and said he felt he was very well-trained for a this type of a situation.

“It was pretty standard. All we did is what we’re always trained to do. We had been practicing with spinal injuries almost every Friday,” he said. “Basically when something like that happens, you don’t really panic. You just think about that next thing and what you have to do. The first thing that ran through my head was getting my gloves on, because there was blood. I got to get a parent to call 9-1-1, because it was a neck or back injury.”

Rick and Kim Bullock manage Sugarwood community pool and run drills with their lifeguards every Friday.

“We do drills during our staff meetings, because when they go through certification they teach them technique. There’s no way to get real-world experience except in the pool at the place where you are working. Plus, each individual facility has their own emergency procedures,” Rick said. “We go over our emergency procedures. We drill on different scenarios. Of course the extreme one is if you have an unknown injury or known head injury that’s potentially spinal. They would take [the victim] all the way through immobilizing them and back-boarding them. This is what happened.”

He added, “The E-M-S guy even commented, more times than not, at pools they don’t give the right stuff like we had ready for them. The guys were quite proud.”

Ector, who lives in Athens and was in Farragut visiting friends, said he also was impressed with the lifeguards’ actions.

“They held me so I couldn’t move. They took me on a board, and I went to the hospital,” he said. “They did a good job.”

He said he was grateful for Dowden and James, “because they helped me, and they made sure I didn’t move so I didn’t hurt anything else.”

Janet Buell, Dowden’s mother, said, “[The lifeguards] knew how to handle it, and everybody was so impressed with how they took over and did it, got everyone out of the pool, got everybody calm.”

She added, “It was just a cool situation to see these kids, these teenagers, doing what they did; they had it all under control. These boys are heroes.”


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