OCEAN CITY – Ocean City Beach Patrol Sgt. Jamie Falcon found himself at the right place at the right time last week when he saved the life of an infant at a lifeguard competition in Virginia Beach.
In the midst of hundreds of lifeguards at the Nautica United States Lifesaving Association (USLA) National Lifeguard Championships in Virginia Beach on Friday, Falcon found himself saving the life of a one-year old boy who was choking on a potato chip.
“We had just finished our events and I was standing with my family telling my wife how thrilled I was the stress was over because Beach Flags is like being a basketball referee,” said Falcon, who serves as an official for Beach Flags and was judging the competition. “My wife realized there was something going on. There was a crowd of people converging on the middle of the beach, so I ran over. There was someone holding the baby, and he was doing back blows but they were not sufficient. I said I would take him and he handed the child to me.”
When Falcon became aware the child was suffering from respiratory arrest, he began CPR.
“Initially I didn’t think it would be very hard to clear a potato chip but I was surprised because I did three cycles of chest compressions and back blows, and I checked breathing each time but he wasn’t breathing until the third cycle. It was very hard and very scary. The mother was there and she was hysterical. Each time I rolled him over he became less alert and less conscious in his face. It was a really rough one,” he said.
Once the child began to breath, Falcon laid him down and heard OCBP Sgt. Rick Cawthern’s voice.
“We were the only two officers there. We ran over from separate directions and we ended up being the first two to get there,” Falcon said. “It felt like a very long time for the paramedics to arrive where in Ocean City they are there. When they arrived … three of us carried him off [the beach] and put him in the ambulance. He became conscious in the ambulance before it went away.”
Falcon serves as the director of training for the OCBP and in a meeting on Monday morning he relayed to the guards how surprised he was how difficult it was to clear the potato chip.
“I have performed a hand full of CPRs and all kinds of emergencies at work that is pretty normal but this was the first time with a child,” he said. “What was going through my head was ‘holy crap this baby is going to die in my arms right in front of its mother.’ The longer it went I just kept hitting harder.”
The child was reportedly released from the hospital and is fine.