“It all happened so fast”: Verona lifeguards recount life-saving teamwork

By Kay Elmsley Weeden, American Red Cross

On a quiet December afternoon in the Verona School District High School pool, a few guests were still swimming as lifeguard John Ames sat in his observation chair scanning the calm scene.

That calm was about to change.  

One of the regular lap swimmers, a 58-year-old man, got out of the pool and walked over to a chair – and then collapsed. Within seconds, John sounded the emergency whistle and was at the man’s side. Fellow lifeguards Lindsey Paulson and Alicyn Nicholson, as well as Angie Lucas, school Aquatics Director, immediately joined in to ensure man’s safety.

It appeared the man was having a seizure. American Red Cross training kicked in, keeping the Verona aquatics team on top of the fast-moving and dire scene. Angie directed Lindsey and Alicyn to retrieve towels, a bag mask and the AED (automatic external defibrillator), and had someone call an ambulance. 

The situation intensified as the man stopped breathing. Angie began CPR as the other guards placed the AED pads to monitor his heart rate. No pulse. They administered a shock and continued CPR and airbag rescue breathing. Again, no pulse and the device directed them to administer another shock. They did, and then continued CPR and breathing until local EMS arrived and took over. 

American Red Cross recipients of the Lifesaving Award for Professional Responders from the Verona School District, from left: Alicyn Nicholson, Angie Lucas, John Ames and Lindsey Paulson. The aquatics leader at the school used their CPR and AED training to help save the life of a swimmer in December 2020.

They were flooded with relief for their efforts as the man regained consciousness and began speaking as he was taken to the hospital. As a result of their actions, the aquatics team were told that just days after the incident, the man they saved was able to spend Christmas at home with his family.

Angie is incredibly proud of her lifeguards and their quick reactions. Their fluid actions were evidence of the skills they had routinely practiced in their many lifeguard trainings, even though none of them imagined they would actually use those skills one day. 

Obviously shaken by the events, they remarked to Angie, “It all happened so fast!”

But Angie noted that because of their training, John, Lindsey and Alicyn knew exactly what to do, without hesitation.

And they saved someone’s life.

The importance of this training is paramount to Angie. 

“You never know when you might use this,” said the long-time aquatics director at the school district. And she should know: she performed CPR on the very first day she ever lifeguarded, age 16, more than 40 years ago. That moment forever changed her life. 

As a decades-long partner with the Red Cross, Angie consistently promotes CPR and basic life-saving skills to anyone she can. 

“It’s a gift to have the know-how and be able to help,” she said.

Alex Rosenbaum, the assistant pool director, nominated these four individuals for their life-saving acts based on Red Cross training. On Thursday, March 11, the Southwest Chapter of the Red Cross presented Angie, Alicyn, John and Lindsey with the Lifesaving Award for Professional Responders, a national recognition from the Red Cross that includes a certificate and citation for their heroics at the pool on that December afternoon.

Alex stated: “As unnerving as the situation was, the quick actions of these students and our director during what was a surreal moment for them all resulted in this man being alive and well today. That should be celebrated.”

You can be trained in CPR, First Aid, lifeguarding and other life-saving skills. Sign up here for virtual and in-person lessons from the American Red Cross.

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