Every night, Jeanne Brault said she thanks God for the three young lifeguards who rescued her husband from William M. Welch Community Swimming Pool after he suffered cardiac arrest last week.
“They did something indescribable and with such maturity and composure to bring my husband back to me,” Brault said.
On June 12, lifeguards Taylor Brennan, 17, Stephen Boris, 23, and Luc Lallement, 16, rescued 83-year-old Gerry Brault from the lap pool at the Welch pool on Westerly Parkway, after he became unconscious while swimming laps.
“I remember I was swimming my 15th lap around noon and then woke up in a hospital around 4:30, and remember nothing in between,” Gerry Brault said Wednesday, his first time back at the pool.
Lallement was the first to Brault’s aid and whistled for assistance.
“I noticed right away when he went passive, and jumped in the pool immediately,” said Lallement, a first-year lifeguard. “At that point, I knew it was serious, and it was my duty to act no matter the nerves I was feeling at that time.”
Lallement said Boris helped pull Brault out of the water, and together they performed CPR — Boris doing rescue breathing, while Lallement performed chest compressions.
Brennan said she called 911, retrieved and used the automated external defibrillator, and aided in the assistance of the rescue, while other guards helped ease the pool atmosphere.
Todd Roth, director of aquatics, said there were about 25 other patrons at the pool during the time of the rescue.
The lifeguards said it took about 25 minutes from the time Brault was retrieved from the pool to the time he was taken by ambulance. During that time, Brault was unconscious and in and out of a pulse.
“The first first-responder got here in about 2 minutes,” Brennan said. “It was quick, but there was a process we were going through to help save this man. My nerves were going crazy, and I was just praying the entire time.”
Brault said doctors told him he suffered cardiac arrest, when, he said, the signal to his heart “pooped out,” causing his heart to stop.
“Without them, I wouldn’t be here,” he said of the pool team. “I have much thanks and gratitude to these young lifeguards who saved me. I don’t know how else to express my appreciation.”
Lifeguards and other pool staff said a quick reaction time was to thank for the successful rescue.
“Rapid response is key,” Roth said. “Survival rate goes up significantly when CPR and the use of an AED is administered as soon as possible.”
Roth said there are two or three rescues at the swimming pools a week, usually helping a child get out of the water.
“This is the first medical rescue of this nature we’ve had,” Roth said.
On Wednesday, Brault met a large group of friends and regular patrons of the pool to thank them for their support and show his appreciation for pool staff.
“It’s nice to see kids on summer vacation doing demanding and helpful work,” Brault said. “Without them, I wouldn’t be here.”
Brault now has a 3-inch scar near his heart from where a lifelong pacemaker and defibrillator were installed.
“I’m like a robot,” Brault said, jokingly. “They put the Cadillac of heart machines in me, so I think I’ll be here a while.”
“This had never happened before, but he was told by doctors in the past that he could need a pacemaker,” Brault’s wife added. “It looks like we’re there now.”
Friend Beth Stover, who has been swimming with Brault for years, said she was in the pool next to him last Wednesday when she saw Brault float to his side.
“I knew something was wrong, and just as soon as I was about to tell a lifeguard, they were already in the pool,” Stover said. “To be honest, I didn’t think he was going to make it, but we’re sure glad he’s here now.”
Brault said he is getting the itch to jump in the pool, but doesn’t quite have a doctor’s clearance yet.
“I’m aiming to get in the water before the end of summer,” Brault said. “That’s my goal.”
“We’re practically nailing him down to the floor, because he wants to get back into it again,” Jeanne Brault said with a laugh.
Roth said Brault is more than welcome to come back, as he is like family at the Welch pool.
“He was here every day, a regular,” Roth said, “and you could see people’s demeanors change when he wasn’t around. We’re just glad to have him back, and have him back in good spirits.”
Roth added that Centre Region Parks and Recreation is proud of the lifeguards who acted as they were trained.
“We don’t know when something like this is going to happen, and you don’t know how someone will act until it happens, and they made us proud, found composure and relied on their training,” Roth said.
But Brennan said firsthand experience with a rescue is as valuable as the training and two years of pool time she has.
“It was like something I’ve never been a part of before,” Brennan said. “You’re saving someone’s husband, father and friend, and being a part of his life-saving means a lot.
“This was like a test and you know how you’re going to act the next time it happens, and we really bonded as a staff.”
“Yeah, the biggest thing is that CPR is a lifesaver, too,” Boris added. “We proved that last week.”
Lallement said the situation was ironic. Last year, his father died from a heart attack as he was swimming.
“I think I’m able to see both ends of the spectrum,” he said. “I was 15 when he passed, but this was maybe a sign that I was in the right place at the right time to help someone who went through something similar to what my dad did. It’s truly amazing to help save someone.”
Brault said he is just glad to be here.
“I was dead, and now I’m not,” he said. “These three young folks saved me so I can spend a long time with the people I love.”