SILVER SPRING – A recent Quince Orchard High School graduate helped save a four-year-old child from nearly drowning at Stoneridge Community Pool and Tennis on Muddy Branch Road in Gaithersburg.
Around 1:30 p.m. on June 24, Marisa Arnold was sitting in her lifeguard chair at the shallow end of the pool when she noticed a young child who was singing and diving in and out of the water to retrieve toys.
As far as she could tell, the child was unattended, which she said is common at the Stoneridge pool, where she is in her second summer working as a lifeguard.
She kept an eye on the child and suddenly realized, “He was underwater. He did not look okay,” she said.
The child’s aunt began to scream, Arnold recalled, “But I had already seen he was underwater.”
The aunt, who was closer, pulled her nephew out of the pool as Arnold “just jumped off the (lifeguard) chair and onto the concrete,” Arnold, of Gaithersburg, said.
When she reached the child, “I noticed he was purple.”
She immediately yelled to her fellow lifeguards to call 9-1-1 and bring her a breathing mask and a shock defibrillator as she quickly started doing chest compressions as part of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
After about 30 compressions and then placing the mask on the child, the youngster “vomited all over me and started crying,” she recalled.
“As soon as he vomited, he began getting his color back,” she noted.
When asked if she was nervous as she administered CPR, the 18-year-old lifeguard said there was no time for that. “I was on autopilot,” she explained.
By the time the child had regained color, one of the people at the pool, who is a nurse, came over and checked the child’s pulse, Arnold recalled.
About five minutes later, members of the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service arrived to transport the child to the hospital.
The emergency service workers praised Arnold, she said. “They high-fived me. They were saying, ‘You saved him. You saved him.’”
Although Arnold spoke with the Montgomery County Sentinel two days after the incident, she clearly was still quite emotional about it.
“It’s a pretty crazy feeling. It honestly doesn’t feel like I saved a life,” she said.
“I’m a little overwhelmed. It’s a little difficult to shake off the sounds” and the images from the incident, she acknowledged.
Although Arnold has been a lifeguard for four years – with two of those years at Stoneridge, where the pool is part of Stoneridge Homeowners Association – this was the first time she actually saved someone from drowning, she said.
Not only is it the first time for her, but assistant pool manager Tyler Turner said it also was the first time someone was ever saved in the pool’s history.
Although Turner is in his first year at the swimming pool, “I’ve talked to other guards, and they said it never happened here,” he noted.
Turner was not at the pool that afternoon. Still, he congratulated Arnold. “I told her, ‘Good job,’” he said.
Arnold just graduated from Quince Orchard, but spent her senior year taking classes online while interning as a teacher’s assistant.
Until this incident, she wanted to study to be a special education teacher when she attends McDaniel College in Westminster, Md.
But now, she said, “I’m honestly not quite sure. I feel like I handled that pretty well.”
Therefore, she said, she now is considering a career in medicine.
The incident also has changed the way she lifeguards.
“I am definitely treating it differently. I am a little more strict,” especially with negligent parents, she said.