When Bob Lee started swimming laps one day last June, he didn’t think that he would be putting his life in the hands of teenagers.
The 70-year-old had a normal summer day before getting in the Benjamin Harris YMCA pool: He took care of his five-month-old granddaughter, spent time with his wife Karen, and mowed his son’s grass. Then, as he usually does, he went to get some exercise. Swim fins and resistance gloves in place, Bob dove in into the pool.
Then, Bob’s heart stopped while he was in the water.
Luckily, this happened while he was swimming right by a team of YMCA-trained lifesavers. They noted right away that Bob was in distress and dove in, collecting Bob from the bottom of the pool, saving him. Later, one nurse would say that people with heart attacks like Bob’s usually only have about a 5 percent chance of surviving.
“He’s my living miracle,” Bob’s wife, Karen, said.
Training Kicks In
Jair Zenil was the first lifeguard to see Bob in trouble. Stationed in a lifeguard chair, the 16-year-old dove in and pulled Bob to the side of the pool. In no time, Bob was surrounded by a team of people — another 16-year-old, Tim Sullivan, head lifeguard Noah Bowen, and Associate Aquatics Director John Chapman.
Tim said that he didn’t think much about the seriousness of the situation as it happened. He focused only on the training he and Jair received from Aquatics Director Missy Welling.
“It was kind of surreal,” he said.
The team administered CPR on Bob and used an automated external defibrillator (AED) to shock Bob’s heart back into rhythm and revive him. First responders from the Lawrence police and fire departments arrived after, and by the time Bob was transported to the St. Vincent Indianapolis, he was conscious and responsive.
‘Very, Very, Very, Very Lucky’
Bob’s doctor and nurses all told him that the team at the Y did an amazing job. “They told me, ‘You’re lucky they knew what to do,’” he said. “The folks over at the Y got accolades from every one of the doctors.” After the incident at the pool, Bob spent 10 days in the hospital, where his doctors implanted a pacemaker and defibrillator in his chest.
Just a few days before the holiday season kicked off, Bob said he was feeling good and “very, very, very, very lucky.”
Karen added that she knows what she’s thankful for: “Those lifeguards and wonderful doctors.”
Olympic swimmer Janet Evans will be at the Y’s signature fundraiser, Revolution Ball, on Jan. 26. Proceeds from this night on the town and donations to the Y’s Annual Campaign help provide swim lessons and lifeguard training for those who otherwise couldn’t afford them.