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Ottawa teen lifeguard saves 3-year-old with CPR

On a sunny and warm Friday afternoon in late June, the wading pool at the Michele Heights Community Centre in Ottawa’s west-end was bustling with activity. Seventeen-year-old Kate was scanning the pool—working her very first shift as a lifeguard—when all of a sudden, she saw a young boy lying face-down in the one-metre deep water.

“As soon as I saw him, I just jumped in the pool,” Kate recalls. As other lifeguards blew their whistles, cleared the pool, and called 911, the three-year-old boy was pulled from the pool and Kate started CPR with the help of a fellow lifeguard. They performed three rounds of CPR and the boy was breathing on his own just before the paramedics arrived. The boy later regained consciousness after being transported to the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO).

Kate credits the ACT High School CPR course she took in Grade 9 at Sacred Heart Catholic High School, and her lifeguard training for preparing her to react at the pool.

Two months later, Kate was recognized for her lifesaving actions when she was presented with the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal by Foreign Affairs Minister and Member of Parliament for Ottawa West-Nepean, John Baird.

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But Kate, who is studying for a Bachelor of Science in Human Kinetics at St. Francis Xavier University, doesn’t see herself as a hero. “I was just really glad that the boy was okay. It could have been anyone doing it. I don’t feel like a hero—I was part of a team. I just happened to be the first one there.”

Kate urges all high school students to learn CPR. “I think it’s a great idea. It is such a useful skill to have and it’s not that difficult, once you’re taught. The more people who know CPR and who know what to do in a situation like that, more lives could be saved.”

The ACT High School CPR Program was set up in Kate’s high school in 2004, thanks to generous community and provincial-level support that enabled the donation of mannequins, teacher training and curriculum resources. The lead community partner in Ottawa is the Kiwanis Club of Ottawa. Provincial partners are the Government of Ontario, Hydro One, and The Ontario Trillium Foundation. The CPR program was enhanced at Kate’s high school with AED training in 2009, thanks to a partnership between the ACT Foundation, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario, The Sens Foundation, and Mr. Eugene Melnyk.

The Advanced Coronary Treatment (ACT) Foundation is the award-winning, national charitable organization establishing free CPR and defibrillator training programs in high schools across Canada. ACT raises funds to donate mannequins and teacher training to schools, and guides schools in program set-up and long-term sustainability. Over 2.6 million youth have been trained in CPR by their teachers through this lifesaving program to date.

ACT’s national health partners supporting the program in Ontario and throughout Canada are AstraZeneca Canada, Pfizer Canada and Sanofi. They provide ACT’s sustaining funding and are committed to the Foundation’s national goal of promoting health and empowering Canadians to save lives.