Introduction – Yuri
“Hey sexy, if you’re on duty, I want to be drowning.”
“I call dibs on the CPR!”
I ignore the group of guys who make suggestive remarks and catcall me as they walk past me and the red and yellow flag that I am putting up.
Red and yellow.
There’s nothing like red and yellow to get my blood racing and adrenaline pumping.
All the flag means to beachgoers is that a lifeguard is on duty. What it means to me, however, is a whole other spectrum; from prevention to safety and responsibility. As a fulltime lifeguard at the beach, my job is to ensure the safety of beachgoers, even If they are as irritating as that group of catcalling guys. It is also part of my job to enforce the beach rules so as to prevent accidents or injuries from happening. There are times when I have other duties like running training programs and handling administrative paperwork but my main concern will always be the safety of my beachgoers.
I’ve always been a strong swimmer. Even as a kid, I was able to swim in the open ocean fearlessly. So, it is only natural that I am now a lifeguard. Is it not?
Well, I didn’t always want to become a lifeguard. Once upon a time, I had wanted to become a detective, following that, a teacher and during my teens, I had wanted to become a swimmer. So how did I end up as a lifeguard?
I attribute my aspiration to the lifeguard who saved my life. Being a strong swimmer, I would go to the beach every other weekend and swim in the sea. So it was like any other weekend and any other swim in the sea when I waded into the sea and started swimming. What I did not expect to happen, however, was my legs cramping up, rendering me powerless to swim. It was ironic that a strong swimmer like me would panic but I did. I panicked and struggled and panicked and struggled. I tried yelling for help but I didn’t seem to be able to time it right and every time I opened my mouth to scream for help, more salty sea water would enter and I would splutter.
I thought I was going to die.
Then a streak of orange came out of nowhere and flashed before my very eyes and I grabbed on to it desperately. I clutched it as tightly as I could as my chest heaved and heaved. And as my breathing gradually resumed normality, a sense of immense relief washed over me. My eyes closed as I fervently muttered my thanks to the heavens watching over me.
I was saved.
I became great friends with the lifeguard who saved my life. He taught me a lot of what I know now and one day, I found myself announcing to him that I was going to be a lifeguard, just like him. He smiled kindly at me and patted my head.
“I’m sure you’re going to be the best lifeguard out there.”
I shook my head violently.
“No, no, no. Oppa, you are the best lifeguard around.”
His eyes twinkled as he laughed and ruffled my hair affectionately.
“You sweet-talking lil’ punkie!”
Now, as I settle into my lifeguard tower, I keep my eyes peeled for any possible dangers on the beach or swimmers in danger of drowning.
There are some days when little or nothing happens but that is rare and only when there are few people at the beach. I’ve got a healthy crowd today and an accident or a case of drowning could happen at any time and I would have to be out there rescuing them within seconds.
As a trained Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), I am all ready to be there for the beachgoers. I keep my rescue can by my side, as well as a well-stocked first aid kit that includes advanced first aid items like defibrillators and resuscitators in my lifeguard tower but I’d much rather not use them – ever.
About half way through my shift, is when I spot the signs.
Wilding flapping arms, slapping on the surface of water, body straight up and sinking… I know that I have less than a minute to get there and I waste no time. I grab my trusty rescue can and dash out of my tower. My feet kick up the sand, sending showers of fine, white sand flying and spraying through the air behind me as I sprint into the sea and dive in without a moment’s hesitation. I swim strongly through the sea, each well-trained muscle pulling hard, getting me to her before anyone else manages to and toss my rescue can to her. She instinctively grabs hold of it and I pull her safely to shore.
A round of applause from the crowd on the beach greets me as I return to land with her in tow but I barely even notice it. I am completely focused on ensuring that she is safe and sound. The girl I rescued coughs and splutters but she is none the worse for wear. After I check that she is okay, she looks at me most gratefully. Fortunately, I got to her quickly enough so there’s little damage done. She’s able to get on her feet almost immediately and I help her back to where her beach stuff is lying in the sand.
“Will you be alright?”
“Yes. I can’t thank you enough for saving me.”
I simply smile and pat her shoulder comfortingly.
“Don’t worry about it. I’m happy enough that you’re safe.”
Just another day in the life of a lifeguard.
My second rescue of the day happens near the end of my shift. Unlike my first rescue earlier today, this person is submerged and is what we lifeguards call a passive drowning victim. She is inactive and in danger. I grab my rescue tube instead of the rescue can I used earlier today and my body kicks into the same drill that it is so well-trained to do.
I reach her in a jiffy and submerge myself underwater. While holding onto the strap of my rescue tube, I wrap my arm around her chest and pull on the strap with my other arm. Just as we are about to break the water surface, I push her slightly ahead of me and force the tube under her. Now that her head is kept above the water, I wrap my arms under her armpits and swim back to shore.
She is unconscious as I lay her on the beach. Immediately, I radio for an ambulance before launching into the cardiopulmonary resuscitation procedure. Finding no breathing and pulse, I locate the meeting point of her ribs and begin pumping down hard and fast on her chest. I do it quickly and efficiently, completing a set of thirty pumps before tilting her head up to straighten her airway. I pinch her nose and pull her mouth open before I engulf her entire mouth with my wide open lips and blow air into her system, allowing some time for air to exit before blowing air in again.
I do three cycles of this before water finally spurts out from her mouth. She begins to cough and splutter as her body tries to get her lungs to expand and take in the much needed air for her body.
Suddenly, a shrill scream pierces through the air as I check the girl whom I rescued for any visible injuries.
“JESSI! OH MY GAWD! ARE YOU ALRIGHT?”