During swim practice in River Falls, Wisconsin, Becca Thomas, a 15-year-old trained lifeguard, noticed that there was something wrong with her teammate, Marissa Metzler, a 12-year-old in the lane next to her.
“There was a split second where my brain was saying ‘what’s going on, why isn’t she swimming?'” says Becca. What she didn’t know at the time was Marissa’s heart had gone into sudden cardiac arrest. After briefly thrashing around, Marissa’s body went limp and lifeless.
Becca responded in seconds. She swam over and, keeping Marissa’s head out of the water, brought her to edge of the pool where their coach helped pull Marissa out of the pool and onto the pool deck. There, Becca and a couple of her teammates tipped Marissa’s head upward to clear the airway. When they couldn’t find a pulse, 911 was immediately called.
Becca’s teammates, who are also CPR certified, sprang into action and together they began the life-saving skills necessary to keep Marissa alive. They started chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth breathing before grabbing an AED, (automated external defibrillator). The AED was administered to Marissa’s chest and delivered an electric shock to her heart twice to try and re-establish a heartbeat. Becca took over handling chest compressions at that time and Marissa began to come to. Shortly after, the River Falls ambulance paramedics arrived and took over.
“In the moment I didn’t think about what was happening, I just did what I needed to do,” says Becca, “But then afterward, all I could think is ‘oh my goodness’ as it all sunk in.” She left the pool that night feeling tired both emotionally and physically. The following Sunday at church she was greeted with an overwhelming support of friends who congratulated her and were encouraged by what had happened. All the glory goes to God, says Becca, for her being in the right place at the right time.
Becca’s mom, Shelley Thomas, tears up when talking about her daughter’s heroic actions. “I’m so thankful that I had her do the Red Cross training.” Shelley takes CPR training every year and believes in passing this practice to future generations, just as her mom encouraged her. She hopes to inspire others with this story of her daughter’s bravery and wants them to know that, “CPR is good training to have, please take it.”
Becca was the youngest person, by many years she says, during her Red Cross lifeguard and CPR courses that previous summer. On her first day of class, when they went around the room doing introductions, many people stated that they were taking the training for their job or other reasons. “I was the only one who didn’t really have a reason to be there, other than the fact that my mom wanted me to take it. The training really isn’t that much busy work and you’re in the water almost every day practicing life-saving skills.” And because Becca was equipped with the skills necessary to save Marissa’s life, Marissa and Becca were able to visit each other recently and celebrate Marissa’s thirteenth birthday.
Many people agree that a CPR class can make the difference between life and death, including Denise Metzler, Marissa’s mom. When the Red Cross contacted Denise and told her that Becca has the potential to receive a American Red Cross Certificate of Merit Award, she cried and said “I just hope more people get CPR trained.”
Click here to find your local CPR training location today.
(Story and photo by Megan Barnes/American Red Cross)