CPR-trained women save boy’s life on Sabbathday Lake

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NEW GLOUCESTER — Three women trained in CPR revived a young boy who nearly drowned Monday on a New Gloucester lake, saving the 4-year-old’s life.

He was listed Tuesday in stable condition at a local hospital.

Janelle Alpizar sits on the porch of her Bradley Street home in Lewiston on Tuesday while recounting the near-drowning of a boy Monday at Barefoot Beach on the Outlet Road in New Gloucester. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

Janelle Alpizar of Lewiston said she was standing on a float off Outlet Beach (also known as Barefoot Beach) on Sabbathday Pond in the midafternoon, readying for a jump into the water, when she noticed a woman cradling her young son, who was curled in the woman’s lap. The woman repeated the boy’s name, asking whether he was joking and feigning sleep.

Alpizar asked the woman if there was a problem. The woman told her she thought she needed help.

The woman said her son was “acting funny” and said she wasn’t sure why he was unresponsive.

Alpizar told the woman to allow her to hold the boy, believing he might respond to a stranger.

“Then we realized he was not acting out,” Alpizar said. She took a closer look at the boy.

“His tongue was kind of bulging out a little bit,” she said. “His eyes were closed.”

Alpizar realized something was very wrong.

At that point, a group of women had approached the dock to ask whether there was a problem.

Alpizar said she wasn’t sure, noting that the boy had started “acting out” and wasn’t responding.

One of the women, who identified herself as a nurse, took over from Alpizar.

The boy’s breathing was irregular, Alpizar said. She asked whether she should call 911.

She jumped off the dock. As she started to swim back to the beach for her phone, she heard a woman shout from the float: “He’s not breathing.”

Alpizar watched as one of the women began chest compressions on the boy whose small body was laid out on the float. Another woman was at the boy’s head.

“They are the ones that brought him back to life,” Alpizar said.

Brittany Waterhouse of Casco had been on the beach with her 4-month-old daughter, her husband on the float with their two sons.

The 4-year-old boy on the float had wanted to jump off it. Ryan Waterhouse had offered to catch the boy, but his mother had said she would simply lower him into the water, holding him. He wore a flotation device.

“He was under the water for maybe a second and she pulled him right up,” Waterhouse said. After that, the boy wasn’t acting like himself.

Ryan Waterhouse asked about the boy, then called to Brittany on the beach, knowing she had CPR certification.

Waterhouse, a certified nursing assistant at a Portland hospital, swam to the float. She asked whether the boy was breathing. His mother said she wasn’t sure. Waterhouse called for someone to call 911, she said.

Once she was on the float, Waterhouse and two other women began to administer CPR to the boy, who had gone limp and had no pulse. Waterhouse performed chest compressions, trading off with another woman, while the third woman cleared the boy’s airway and performed mouth-to-mouth breathing.

Waterhouse said she didn’t remember how long they worked on the boy.

The boy responded to their efforts. His pulse returned. He began to breathe again.

“He started to kick his legs and grab at his throat like he was choking, like he wanted to breathe but couldn’t,” she said.

The boy and his mother were lowered into a raft and taken to shore were town rescue crews were waiting with an ambulance.

“I am so thankful that it turned out OK,” she said. “His mom — it was literally like a nightmare — there was so much terror in her voice.”

Nicole Hall, also a CNA, had been stationed at the boy’s head.

“We were having trouble getting an open airway,” Hall said. “But we were able to get some breaths into him.”

After a couple of rounds of CPR, she said, “We thought we had him back a couple of time, but then he seemed to fade away again.” They continued their efforts, Hall breathing into the boy’s mouth while Waterhouse and another woman, identified as Heather Williams of Lewiston, took turns doing chest compressions.

“He finally was definitely awake and started crying,” Hall said. They handed the boy over to his mother.

“This was truly, truly just a freak accident,” Hall said. “If his mother didn’t react as quick as she did, this could have been a horrible outcome.”

“It’s a good thing everybody was where they were that day,” she said. “It had the best outcome it could have had, but there are a lot of tragic accidents that could be avoided if everybody was well-educated in CPR.”

New Gloucester Fire and Rescue Capt. Scott Doyle issued a statement Tuesday to report the incident, praising the efforts of all of the women who responded to the emergency.

“We are thrilled for the work of the beach goers and bystanders who jumped in to help, immediately,” he wrote. “A few more seconds could have made a very grim result. Everyone did what they had to do and it was all the right judgments.”

The boy was reported as breathing by the time emergency medical services arrived at the beach, Doyle wrote.

“Now is the time to remind people that knowing CPR can and will save lives,” he wrote. “If they are not CPR trained, they need to know it. They are teaching it by age 10.”

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