Thursday, August 23, 2012

"Gnarly save!", by Roger Wojahn

Photo by & Copyright Roger Wojahn 2012.  All Rights Reserved. Used here with permission.  Please do not reproduce with out permission.

An amazing thing happened on Friday afternoon, August 17, 2012 on Santa Monica South at Tower #27.  A bodyboarder collapsed in the shallow water from a heart attack.  Other swimmers saw him and lifeguards quickly responded and brought him back to life. One beach patron, a local surfer named Roger Wojahn, witnessed the whole thing and took this amazing photo above which captures a moment in time when two very experienced L.A. County Lifeguards, both Ocean Lifeguard Specialists (OLS), one of whom is a Paramedic, working on the victim who was not breathing and had no pulse.  Well here, let Roger tell you all about it.

"Gnarly save. This body surfer was rolling around in the surf essentially dead. At least 10 minutes of radical CPR and a couple defibs and airway clearings and he began to breathe on his own congrats to LA lifeguards and LA fire!" (Roger Wojahn, August 17, 2012).

The next day Roger had more to say about what witnessing this extraordinary event meant to him:

"Witnessing yesterday's life-saving experience made a powerful impression on me. Normally, I look away from things that are too intense. I can't watch. Heck, I can barely get my teeth cleaned at the dentist. So it was unusual for me to be so immersed in such an event.

I'd been somewhat lost in my own introspection when it exploded right in front of me and I immediately became aware and stopped thinking and started witnessing. Everyone just arrived and did their job with no thought. No one analyzed, no one pondered, no one really even conversed except to make clipped short communications. The lifeguards just acted; they responded.

I was eerily detached from any particular feelings while it was going down. The chest compressions were so urgent and took so long that you could feel that this man was probably not going to be resuscitated. He was dead. But either way, the ocean flowed in and out, the seagulls turned and flew and everything seemed peaceful in a strange way. Whatever happened was just in the flow of life. I had no anxiety and no fear. I just observed. Either way, life was just doing its thing.

After all the work, and feeling the fatigue and fading hope of the rescuers we were all just amazed when he finally took a breath and exhibited a pulse. From what I understand from my friends on the force, CPR generally either works quickly or it doesn't work at all. That they worked on this guy so long and he lived was amazing. If these men and women had not been there he would have remained dead for sure. On the one hand, you could say he had a pretty bad day. But on the other hand, he had a pretty incredible day. I wish that I would have made a movie on my phone so that he could have seen that he was dead and became alive.

Later on, I introduced myself to the young first responding lifeguard. He was a kid of about 18. He was already back up in the tower on the job. We talked for a bit as he was still taking it all in. I know this young man will pull many people from harm's way and he will also have some people die on his watch. But rarely will he have someone come back to life like that before his very eyes. I wished I could have bought him a tequila shot last night and I thanked him for all of us.

Once again, I was reminded of the fragility of life. We get so caught up in our minds that we separate ourselves from life itself. We get caught up in what "should" or "shouldn't" happen. This just happened and these people simply responded. That seems like a good way to live our lives. We can all be alive. We can all be responders.

Remember that this is it. Life is precious and fleeting. For each of us, today could be our last living moment. Open your eyes, open your heart, immerse yourself in life and give it everything you've got. There is no reason to over think and judge life. We can just embrace it and live it! I, for one, am grateful.

May your weekend be filled with consciousness and bliss.

*** Many Thanks to Roger Wojahn for allowing us to share his photo and remarks. ***

(Photo and Remarks by & Copyright Roger Wojahn 2012. All Rights Reserved. Used here with permission.)


Additional Remarks by OL Cheri Ellington (used here with permission):

"Here is how it went. I was notified by some patrons who saw the victim. They alerted me and I ran to the victim. I also had help dragging him out of the water (shallow water). I told a bystander to go to Tower 26 for help. I also told another bystander to get my first aid kit (inside was a face mask).
I started 30 compressions after checking for a pulse (none). By the time I was at 30, Jeff Little was there with a face mask and proceeded to give him breaths. Gordon Freeman was there next, he offered to take over on the compressions. Everybody else was there in no time at all. We then gave the victim 2 rounds of shocks. After that I was released to go watch the water at my tower. A few minutes later there was clapping from the bystanders. Capt Kirk Thomas told me that he was alert and talking. That whole experience was amazing for me. We all worked together so well. Everybody was encouraging and compliments all around.  I hope I can remember all who responded. Jonah Russell was the OLS that day. Tito Bourget came from Venice, the Rescue 200 Unit with OLS Pat O'Neill and his partner (I can't remember his name), and Section Chief Mickey Gallager.  That was pretty much it. I really appreciated all the help and the quick response. The patrons at SMS rock.


Additional Remarks by OL Jeff Little (used here with permission):  

Hey Will -

That was a great write-up from Roger (Wojahn, who took the photo)!  I really feel I couldn't do much better to describe the situation.

Here are some other pertinent facts regarding the call:

- Cheri Ellington was first on scene in front of T27
- I was 2nd on scene about 30 seconds of Cheri.  I had been in T26
- Gordon Freeman was 3rd on scene 2-3 minutes after me (he was at T28 and I believe he was the "young lifeguard" Roger was referring to
- OLS Jonas Russel was 4th on scene responding from the parking lot behind T26 as he was tending to a sting ray victim
-OLS Russel administered AED within 30 seconds upon arrival and delivered shock
- After that it's hard to remember the exact order of who showed up but my guess in order would be:
- SMS Cpt Kirk Thomas, 23-2 Tito Bourget and Hayk Avagyan, Dylan Jones (from BWSM), Pat O'Neill and ? from LR200, and then Chief Gallagher.

Overall, it was a great team effort and everyone played a vital role from first on scene, Cheri Ellington to Chief Gallagher who was directing personnel.

Thanks Will!

- Jeff


*** Many Thanks to both Cheri and Jeff for sharing their remarks of this event. ***

Postscript: We learned this morning (Friday, Aug. 24th) that the victim eventually passed away at the hospital despite the multiple efforts and the two to three times that he was revived with the AED and CPR by both the lifeguards and the paramedics.  Our most sincere condolences go out to the family and friends of this man who passed away.  Without the efforts of the emergency personnel on scene this man would most likely have been pronounced dead where he apparently fell from a heart attack in the shallow water.  Nevertheless, this is a story of extraordinary courage and a strong endorsement of the training our lifeguards receive and whose efforts were, in fact, successful in reviving the victim, at least for a short period of time.  We are so very proud of our lifeguards who performed so valiantly and with such courage and focus.

Until next time.....

"County Recurrent" News

Service • Training • Commitment

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