“God, please help me bring this girl back.”
Those were the words spinning through Geneva Wollman’s head last summer as she grabbed ahold of a small child who had been floating face down in the deep end of the Mobridge Aquatic Center pool in South Dakota.
“It was so busy, it was packed. You couldn’t move an inch, there were kids everywhere,” Wollman said. “So when I found her, she had been in the water for quite a while. I was scared, but somehow I was able to keep some composure.”
“I really love to help people, and I want to help people at that level.”
That was July 11, 2018, and Wollman was just 19. She was on lifeguard duty when she noticed the 3-year-old girl was not just “playing dead” as kids often do in pools, she said.
This girl was in grave danger.
Wollman dove in and brought the girl to the surface. The child was not breathing and had no pulse when she was pulled from the water. Wollman immediately began performing chest compressions, along with a volunteer EMT who was at the scene. After three or four rounds of CPR, the girl started vomiting and gasping for air. Shortly thereafter, she was taken by ambulance to a hospital.
According to an emergency room doctor, Wollman’s actions are directly responsible for the child being alive today. While the 3-year-old’s name is not being disclosed, she was able to recover well, according to a news release from the American Red Cross.
That’s why on June 6 in Mobridge, Wollman was honored for her courage and bravery. She received the Red Cross Lifesaving Award for Professional Responders — the highest honor given by the Red Cross to individuals who save or sustain a life using skills learned in a Red Cross Training Services course.
But Wollman doesn’t feel like a hero. In fact, it’s still hard for her to wrap her mind around the entire incident.
“I was surprised because I don’t feel like I need an award because I was just doing my job. But I’m very grateful,” she said. “It was just insane. I sat there and looked at her and thought, ‘Seriously, what are the odds it would happen in this pool? This stuff just doesn’t happen.’”
Wollman’s mind might’ve been jumbled that summer day, but in the moment, her body knew exactly what to do. Part of that is thanks to years of instructing, training and experience at the aquatic center.
Last summer’s rescue wasn’t the first that Wollman had gone through in her 20 years.
When she was only 11, Wollman helped resuscitate her 3-year-old cousin who had wandered off on a family camping trip. Wollman said she was the one to spot him floating in a body of water and immediately jumped in, despite not knowing how to swim herself.
“I had so much adrenaline, I was able to go out and grab him,” she said. “After that, I found myself to be capable of a lot more than I thought I was.”
It turned out to be an experience that would prepare her for a similar one eight years later. Both have significantly affected her outlook on life and her future.
Wollman said she is a person who likes high-intensity situations and fast-paced everything. That, combined with her desire to help others, has pushed her to pursue a career in the medical field. She hopes to take the skills she learns at the University of South Dakota, where she is currently studying health sciences, to places that are the most in need.
“I really love to help people, and I want to help people at that level,” she said. “I don’t want to work in a place that has (the best) medical access. I want to go somewhere that actually needs it.”
Source: Aberdeen News