Saturday, July 13 was like any other triple-digit day in Marana: hot.
Despite the sweltering heat, lifeguard Noah McConnell stayed ready and alert. As he surveyed the waters of the Marana Public Pool and the surrounding deck, he noticed an elderly gentleman slumped over in his chair.
Just moments earlier, staff reported the man talking with his grandchildren.
With just a glance, McConnell knew something was wrong. More importantly, he had a decision to make.
“He kind of looked asleep, but I had a really bad feeling,” McConnell said. “I could just wait to the end of my rotation to check on him, or I could just go check right now, see how he is and wake him up.”
Moments later, McConnell blew his whistle, starting the chain of survival for a Marana resident in-need.
McConnell wasn’t alone that day at the pool. Fellow lifeguard Clayton Hall immediately called 911 while Town of Marana Recreation Coordinator Kevin Goodrich checked the patient’s vitals. Goodrich discovered no pulse and soon realized the man was not breathing.
The patient, whose name was not released, was immediately lowered to the pool deck, at which time lifeguards began almost five minutes of chest compression CPR. During this time, lifeguard Brinley Miller delivered two lifesaving electrical shocks using an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) device. Goodrich and lifeguard Joshua Larsen applied a breathing mask to deliver oxygen while McConnell and Goodrich continued chest compressions.
Lifeguard Spencer Murphy handled the crowd and escorted the Northwest Fire District EMTs through an emergency side gate to assure the quickest access to the patient. The lifeguards then transferred patient care to Northwest Fire Engine 336.
According to Northwest Fire District Fire Chief Norman K. “Brad” Bradley, III, responders transported the patient to Northwest Hospital, and defibrillated him “many, many times” en route. The patient ultimately regained consciousness on the way.
After treatment at the hospital for sudden cardiac arrest, doctors released the man to his family with no neurological symptoms.
According to Bradley, over 326,000 people suffer from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest every year in the U.S. The average survival rate is 10.6 percent, and survival with good neurological function occurs roughly 8 percent of the time. Chances may be low, but roughly one-third of victims survive if the incident is witnessed by a bystander, as was the case in Marana.
Survival rate for the condition is nearly 50 percent if treated by Northwest Fire, due in part to rapid response times, Bradley said. During the Marana Pool incident, Engine 336 arrived on scene in less than four minutes after Hall called 911. Response times matter greatly, as survivability drops by 10 percent for each minute without high quality CPR being in place.
While rapid response is vital, Bradley added that high quality CPR is an even bigger driver in survivability, noting that it “suspends the dying process and buys critical time for EMS responders to arrive.”
“This patient is alive today thanks in large part to the professional actions of Marana Parks and Recreation personnel,” he said.
For their work, the town council recognized the lifeguard team under Goodrich during the Aug. 6 regular meeting. August is Drowning Impact Awareness Month, and in lieu of reading out a proclamation, town staff hosted a presentation—led off by parks and recreation director Jim Conroy.
When a national lifeguard shortage struck the nation last year, Conroy said the town decided to take a proactive approach. At the forefront of that effort was Goodrich, a former lifeguard who quickly became a Red Cross Lifeguard Certified Trainer and a CPR and Advanced First Aid Trainer.
Goodrich has conducted training for years, in part to provide the community with life saving information, but also to find potential lifeguards. Over the past four years, the crew has remained small, but extremely capable.
When McConnell’s whistle blew on July 13, Goodrich said the team did exactly as they should. He couldn’t be happier with the result.
“Everybody took on every job that they needed to, from calling 911 and crowd control to doing compressions and controlling the AED, everyone just fell right into place,” Goodrich said. “They all work so well as a team.”
At the Aug. 6 meeting, Marana Mayor Ed Honea expressed the council’s appreciation for the parks and recreation team’s lifesaving effort, reminding them that without their quick thinking and well-trained drills, a Marana resident may not be alive today.
“A lot of times, people think lifeguards are just somebody that’s getting a free tan and making a little money sitting around the pool,” Honea said, “But you guys proved that wrong.”