On June 28, a teenager finished her backstroke race in a swim meet at Burgess Pool in Menlo Park, took off her goggles and then lost consciousness and slipped below the water.
The event triggered a cascade of emergency actions that resulted in saving the 14-year-old's life, an outcome that was a minor miracle, since fewer than 12% of people who have an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survive, according to a statement from Stanford Children's Health, Lucile Packard Children's Hospital. Stanford Children's Health recognized 18 people who contributed to those lifesaving efforts at an awards ceremony on Sept. 26.
The teenager's name and her parents' last names have been withheld at the parents' request.
Eric McGleenon, an off-duty fire captain and paramedic with the Menlo Park Fire Protection District, was on the scene and dove into the water to pull the girl out of the pool and began cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
Dr. Peter Meaney of Stanford's Children's Health, who was also at the pool, rushed over to coordinate the CPR effort, along with Burgess Pool head lifeguard Johnathan Martinez and Julie Cohn, the pool's aquatics head coach.
The Menlo fire district emergency medical services team arrived four minutes later to take over the effort.
Menlo Battalion Chief Chris Pimentel was in his office at Fire Station 1 when the report of a drowning with CPR in progress came over the police radio, according to a fire district press release.
Pimentel told crew members on Engine 1 and Truck 1 of the drowning as the station emergency alert system was going off. He jumped into his vehicle and was on the scene at 4:46 p.m., according to the fire district's account.
"Unfortunately, I’ve been to a number of drowning calls at Burgess Pool," Pimentel said. "When I arrived, the girl had just been pulled from the water and (had no pulse), was not breathing, and CPR was in progress. Things didn’t look good.
"What we didn’t know at the time was that she had experienced a sudden cardiac arrest prior to slipping under the water,” Pimentel said.
When Holly, the girl's mother, arrived at the pool, she saw her daughter being carried to an ambulance on a stretcher and she followed the ambulance to Stanford Hospital.
En route, Holly called her husband, Mark, who was at work in Palo Alto and he joined her at the hospital.
In the emergency unit, doctors, nurses and other medical personnel were trying to revive the teenager.
"You begin thinking your daughter is alive, but you don't know how long her brain went without oxygen," Mark said in the Stanford statement.
By the early morning hours, things were looking up. The girl began wiggling her toes and squeezing her mother's hand. By 4 a.m., she was awake and interacting with them.
Soon, brain and heart MRI scans came back normal and within three days it became clear that the girl was going to make a full recovery, according to the Stanford Children's Health release.
Before she left the hospital, the teen received an implantable cardioverter defibrillator that helps regulate heartbeat. She is also taking beta-blockers that work by blocking the effects of adrenaline.
The girl's doctor credits the high-quality CPR the teenager received at the pool as the reason behind her recovery.
"Given her then-undiagnosed heart arrhythmia, often the first event can be fatal," said cardiologist Dr. Anne Dubin. "Her speedy recovery is due to the fact that she got such excellent CPR in the field."
Although she won’t be able to swim competitively again, the girl is thinking of taking up archery or golf and, in her first year of high school this fall, she is continuing as a middle school junior swim coach, a role she held last year.
"We are forever thankful and grateful for everyone’s help and assistance in what we recognize is a truly remarkable result," Holly and Mark said in the Stanford Children's Health release.
The Menlo Park paramedics trained with Revive, a Stanford Children's Health program that trains paramedics using a rare previous case similar to the one at Burgess Pool, Revive Director Lynda Knight said in the Stanford Children's Health release.
Revive provides paramedics with the lifesaving skills needed to promote survival with the best neurological outcomes in the event that an infant or child suffers a respiratory or cardiopulmonary event, according to the release.
"This training is imperative, as these are very rare occurrences but extremely high-risk events, and health care professionals must practice to sustain these lifesaving skills," Knight said.