It was a lovely sunny morning. The type of morning when you think nothing could go wrong. At least nothing like what was about to happen. That’s always when it happens when you are least expecting something to go wrong. I had just finished kayaking – If I can call it that. I had been on the kayak, but I made it a point of duty not to go too far out in the water. I had gotten a few stares and laughs from adults when they saw a man using the kayak in the shallow section of the water. The stares and pointing didn’t bother me; I had gotten used to them over the years. You see, I have respect for large bodies of water. I know how quick and powerful it can be. I have a lifelong friend that shares my respect for large bodies of water. In his case, it is not so much respect, but fear. He barely goes into the water when he goes to the beach, river or pool. In fact, he doesn’t allow the water to touch his upper body.
After I had finished kayaking, I decided that I would lie down on one of the beach chairs and relax. Up to this point, I still hadn’t ventured into the water. I could see a few people enjoying themselves in the water. The sight of a little girl playing in the shallow section of the water caught my eyes. I quickly recalled that I had seen her earlier playing with a little boy. At that time I had thought to myself how they looked like they were having the time of their lives. I remember them screaming ‘monster’ playfully as they ran back and forth in the shallow area of the beach. I also remember being unsure of who was supervising them. At first, I thought it was the elderly couple they were playing with earlier. After the couple had left without them, I realized that they were not together. Eventually, I forgot about them and went back to relaxing on the beach chair.
As I relaxed on the beach chair chatting with a friend, I heard a scream. I looked up and saw an adult running with a lifeless little body. Immediately I glanced over to where the boy and the girl were playing earlier. The little girl was still there playing, but I could no longer see the little boy. All of this happened in a matter of seconds, and I quickly brought my attention back to the adult running with the body. As it turned out, it was the little boy I had seen earlier. There he was lying lifeless on the sand, people screaming over him; confused and frightened. The next couple of minutes were something out of a movie. Words cannot explain my thoughts and emotions as I watched that little boy dying right there in front of the small crowd that had gathered.
The lifeguards were quickly on the scene, probably alerted by the screams. They took control of the situation and started working on the little boy. Before this moment I had never seen CPR at work, and I didn’t care much for it. I also thought that lifeguards in Jamaica, like a lot of other jobs, was just a hustle. I didn’t have any regard for them before this incident. As I watched the little boy, so innocent, lying there dead or dying. I thought about his parents. I thought how, wherever they were now, their worlds were being turned upside down and they were oblivious. I started thinking how it seemed that my eerie connection with drowning was not just a paranoid thought. It was real, as real as the lifeless body lying in front of me. Years earlier, four of my classmates had drowned at a local beach while doing a class assignment. Some years before that incident another classmate and his brother drowned in a pool. It was also not the first time that somebody had drowned while I was at the beach. Now this incident, this was all the confirmation I needed, I have an eerie connection with drowning.
One day before this incident, I remember talking to some friends about my respect (fear) for large bodies of water. I told them of a simple yet effective rule that guides me. If I couldn’t feel my feet on the ground while I was in the water, it meant that I was too far out in the water. (Yes, I have heard the saying that a teaspoon of water can drown somebody.) Here I was a day later watching lifeguards so valiantly trying to save the life of a little boy too young to be guided by my rule. As I looked at the lifeguards working, it was as if I was at the last moments of a football match waiting for the final whistle with my team still needing a goal.
As the lifeguards administered CPR to no avail, I kept looking for some sign that the little boy was going to be alright. After numerous attempts, something happened. I could see water coming out of the little boy’s mouth and nose. Everything around me was at a standstill, except the two lifeguards working on the little boy. I still didn’t hear the final whistle. There was still hope. The lifeguards were playing the game of their lives; it was an MVP performance. Just when I thought that we were now surely out of time, I heard it. I will never forget the sound. It was a cough. We had gotten the goal we needed. The little boy laid there, looking like Moby Dick just spat him out, but he was alive.
There were cheers all around. The emergency unit was now on the scene. The little boy was hooked up to an oxygen tank and whisked away. None of us would ever forget this day.