Saving a life, all in a day’s work

Pool lifeguards answer call from weight room, with a life in the balance

Anthony Salitra and Karlie Erickson are both life guards at the Leisure Centre in Maple Ridge.

Anthony Salitra and Karlie Erickson are both life guards at the Leisure Centre in Maple Ridge.

As a lifeguard, Karlie Erickson regularly trains  to save lives.

More often than not, a typical shift of a life guard at the Maple Ridge Leisure Centre means treating minor bumps and bruises, twists and strains on the pool deck and around the building.

Monday, July 29 seemed no different.

While on the evening shift, Erickson got a call from the weight room upstairs.

“At first, I thought it was one of those routine calls – and when I went up there, I found him not breathing.”

Lindsey Bennett, in his early 60s, had just replaced some weights back into the racks, then collapsed and was face up on the floor, eyes wide open, heart stopped.

Erickson went into autopilot.

First, she did a breath check. Bennett was doing what they call “guppy breathing” – short, shallow breaths, but with no air going into his lungs.

She gave him two quicks breaths, then started CPR, making 30 hard chest compressions, then giving two more breaths, followed by 30 more compressions.

“We just kept on going.”

Close behind her was fellow lifeguard Anthony Salitra, with an automated external defibrillator.

As Erickson continued CPR, Salitra prepared the defibrillator, then placed two electric pads on Bennett’s chest and administered two shocks within two-minute spans.

With each shock, Bennett’s body convulsed and his arms and legs splayed in four directions.

After seven minutes, paramedics took over.

On the third shock, Bennett showed signs of life.

Within 15 minutes, he was on a stretcher on his way to hospital, breathing on his own.

“I just did my job and responded to the call like any first aid call,” Salitra said.

“There was no panic at any point.”

Together, they saved a life.

“I definitely couldn’t have done it without him,” Erickson said of Salitra.

After the incident, he just continued his shift of keeping people safe in the water.

“I’d say, I’m extremely proud of our staff and how they responded,” Leisure Centre manager Janice Forsyth said.

“Everybody just teamed together. It was phenomenal.”

Rose Bennett, Lindsey’s wife, said she wanted to get the word out after hearing from the cardiologist at Ridge Meadows Hospital.

Without the leisure centre’s staff help, the family would be planning a funeral, the doctor said.

“His heart stopped four times while he was there,” she said.

“He’s had absolutely no heart damage that’s permanent. Without their response time [using CPR and the defibrillator], he would have had permanent heart damage and he wouldn’t have made it.”

After such incidents, Leisure Centre staff are debriefed, Forsyth explained.

“It’s definitely one those things that you have to work through,” Erickson said.

She was happy to hear that Bennett is coming back to the gym.

“I’m looking forward to seeing him happy and smiling.”