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July 25, 2011

Calif. swim coach saves baby from drowning

Orange County Register

ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. — Stephen Fowks went to work Wednesday morning as usual.

The Rancho resident, who turns 20 today, has worked at Ladera Liquids as a swim coach for the community's swim team since May. Fowks finished his shift around 11:30 a.m. He was preparing to leave the pool at Avendale Village Clubhouse Pool when a distraught cry caught his attention.

There, just a few feet in front of him, a mother pulled her motionless baby from the water. Here's what Fowks said happened next:

I was walking off the pool deck. The baby pool is behind it, by the exit. As I was coming around the corner, I hear this mom screaming, "No, no, no!"

She had a baby in her hands. He was blue from his head to his shoulders.

I threw down my clipboard and sat down next to the baby. At first, I didn't think I felt the pulse. I started doing CPR on him. I just started yelling at him just to breathe ... "Come on, buddy!" I was just waiting to hear anything, for him to open his eyes.

I didn't know if he was going to come back around, but he took his first breath after the third cycle. He took his first breath, and I kept going until paramedics got there. Then I let them do their work.

I'm pretty sure they hooked him up to a breathing machine, and they continued CPR on him. They put something in his leg - that made him start crying, which was really good. They put him on a stretcher and rushed him to Mission Hospital.

He's only 14 months old, and the paramedics said he was completely asphyxiated. I guess I got him breathing again before his heart fully stopped.

In the moment
I just saw what was going on, and there was no reaction. It just happened. It was weird - I knew what to do and just did it without thinking. My heart was pounding, and I had so much adrenaline.

There were a lot of other moms there just cheering on the kid, trying to help him breathe. Another coach was there to help me emotionally - just looking at me and making me feel better.

Past experience
I've never dealt with anything like that before. I swam in high school, and I did lifeguarding. I've had to pull people out of the water a couple of times, but never have I had to administer CPR or anything that crazy, especially on an infant.

I got my CPR certification in May - it's required to be a coach. I'm a certified coach for USA swimming, too. You have to go through the coaching test, CPR and lifeguard certifications.

The little kids just say funny stuff all the time - they make my day. I like to see them excel and do better, and go to the meets and see them really excited and nervous for the races. It's awesome.

Drowning prevention
Parents need to learn how to watch their kids better. Don't take your eyes off them - even for a split second. Parents always think they'll hear splashing, but kids can go under quickly without any sound at all, with a bunch of people around.

There's too many drowning incidents that happen in California alone, let alone everywhere else. Paramedics thought he'd been under for two minutes, and that could have easily been prevented if someone had their eye on him.

The baby
The paramedics told me they were going to keep him overnight to make sure there wasn't any severe brain damage. I called the hospital today (on Thursday), because I wanted to go bring him a toy or something. They couldn't tell me any information, but they told me he was released. It's a big sigh of relief that he's OK.

The Orange County Fire Authority could not provide specifics. Capt. Greg McKeown said firefighters were called to Avendale clubhouse pool, CPR was being performed on the baby prior to the arrival of paramedics, and the baby was transported to Mission Hospital.

For patient confidentiality reasons, representatives from Mission Hospital were unable to release any information regarding the status of the baby.

Copyright 2011 Orange County Register
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