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On a boring Wednesday afternoon, I sat in a brightly lit CPR classroom listening to the instructor drone on and on. I began to wonder if I would ever actually need to use these skills. I highly doubted it. The past two years I have worked at the "little-kid-infested" North Fork Swimming Pool, where there have been absolutely no emergencies. A bloody nose or a stubbed toe here or there but never any serious traumas.
These skills that I thought were so useless were put to the test on a chilly Tuesday night in March. The evening started out normal enough, tennis practice and little bit of sparring in Tang So Doo class. That night the instrumental solo and ensemble contest was being held at HHS. Even though I am not a member of the band, I was asked to help out. I was involved in a saxophone quartet with Nolan Cmerek, Mandy Bever and Haley Benson. The four of us warmed up together and patiently waited for our time to come. Distracting us from the complete boredom we were experiencing, a few boys who had watched Louise and I spar in Tang So Doo, engaged in a dunking contest in the gym. The object of this game, as made by Gates and Tyler Shaklee, the "basketball stars", was to run, jump on a plyo box, and dunk the ball in the basketball hoop, suspended from the gym ceiling.
This was amusing to us, the spectators. One particular spectator thought he would join in the fun. The third contestant, Jim Pratt, made his first attempt but lost his grip and fell onto the gym floor on his stomach knocking the air out of him. He got up holding his stomach, gasping for air, and laughing at himself at the same time. The small crowd joined in laughing with him. Nobody wants to try, fail and just quit, so naturally, Jim wanted to try again. Many of the cautious few in the audience expressed their doubts as to whether he should try it again. Jim, having the competitive nature I am sure that all teenage boys possess, attempted to dunk the round orange ball one more time.
His second attempt was again a failure but of a different and more serious type. The momentum of Jim’s feet kept going as he grasped the rim. This motion swung him upside down forcing him to lose his grip and fall ten very long feet.
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"Serious Trauma." 123HelpMe.com. 22 Feb 2020
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Almost right away, my CPR and First Aid skills kicked into a somewhat low gear. I slowly crawled forward and frantically screamed, "Jim, Jim..." Others, whose shock had worn off, ran out into the commons yelling for help and for someone to call 9-1-1. I grasped Jim’s frail head between my sweaty palms and attempted to stabilize him as he was engaged in a violent seizure. All I could do was feebly call his name through my tears. I couldn’t even look at Jim or the floor, which were both stained red by his blood.
By this time, adults who were somewhat calm, came and took over as I ran into the commons to find Louise lying in a heap in the middle of the floor. She and I must have sat there rocking and consoling each other for fifteen minutes until the ambulance finally arrived. All the while, teachers and fellow students tried to soothe and calm our hysterical sobs.
As my mom drove me home from the high school that night, I remember telling her that I could never be a lifeguard again that I folded under pressure. My mom and dad both tried to reason with me and tried to tell me I still could, but I wouldn’t listen. They tried to get me to realize that when I am on the job, I expect something like that to happen and that I am prepared. They explained that no one anticipates anything like that to happen during a "leisure" activity. My parents finally got me to believe that I did everything I could do to the best of my abilities. When my boss found out my feelings toward the job, you could say she steered me in the right direction. She convinced me to join the team again. Unfortunately, I needed to retake the class due to missing an important skills day the summer before. This actually turned out to be a good thing. With Jim’s accident still fresh in my mind, I paid a lot more attention to the tiniest details on those boring Red Cross videos and to the specifics of the previously thought to be useless skills.
I also stayed true to a promise, I was going to the prom with Jim. Even while he was still recovering in the hospital, I would tell anyone that cared or even listened that Jim Pratt was MY date to the prom. My junior year prom photos are beautiful: my awesome date with his half-smile, and me with my arm resting on his shoulder. Jim’s accident will always be with me through memories, photos, trials and tribulations, but through it all it has taught me to be a stronger, more responsible person.
As I sat in that same brightly lit CPR classroom listening to the same instructor talk about CPR, my mind was completely focused on the skills. I actually spoke up in class and knew what I was talking about, not only because I had taken this class before, but because I was in a similar situation as some of the videos showed. Every time I drag my lazy body out into the blazing sun at work, I pay better attention to the little kids playing "Marco-Polo" in the deep end and to the rowdy middle-school boys playing tackle football in the picnic area. Even though, after my third year of lifeguarding, I haven’t had to use my CPR skills to save anyone at the swimming pool, I now know from experience that those seemingly "useless" skills do come in handy in any emergency.