A tragedy at the La Porte City Family Aquatic Center was averted on June 23, thanks to an observant bystander and a pair of well trained lifeguards. A tragedy at the La Porte City Family Aquatic Center was averted on June 23, thanks to an observant bystander and a pair of well trained lifeguards.

Judy Mether was enjoying an afternoon at the pool with her great grandkids when she noticed a youngster alone in the water near the slide. Without her prescription glasses, though, it was difficult for her to make out exactly who the child was. After quickly determining it wasn’t one of her young ones, her attention returned to the young boy, who appeared to be drifting toward the water slide, face down and motionless. Moments later, a lifeguard, Megan Hudson, pulled young Jace Keegan out of the water.

“I checked for his pulse and he didn’t have one,” Hudson said.

“His face was blue and he was limp like a rag doll,” Mether recalled.

Hudson immediately began to administer CPR and was quickly joined by fellow lifeguard, Richie Artega. Working together, with Hudson performing chest compressions and Artega providing ventilation, Keegan quickly regained consiousness and began coughing. 

After being transported to Allen Hospital by La Porte City Fire/Rescue, Keegan was later transferred to Iowa City for observation.  One potential concern for individuals who take on water is a condition known as secondary drowning, which involves breathing difficulties caused by ingesting water into the lungs. In some rare cases, it can lead to death as late as 24 hours after being removed from the water. 

Fortunately in this case, Jace was released from the hospital the next day and returned home, where he and his family celebrated his fourth birthday that weekend.

This incident underscores how quickly recreation in the water can turn dangerous. The Center for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that from 2005-2014, there were an average of 3,536 fatal unintentional drownings annually in the United States, about ten deaths per day. An additional 332 people died each year from drowning in boating-related incidents. About one in five people who die from drowning are children 14 and younger. For every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries.

For Mether, who understands the outcome could easily have been different,  much of the credit goes to a higher power. “Everything goes to God,” she said, noting that without her prescription glasses, she normally would not have noticed someone as far away as Jace was on that fateful day. While thankful she was in the right place at the right time, Mether reiterated a common water safety tip for those who accompany young children to a public swimming area: The responsibility for supervising children in the water should never be left solely to the lifeguards on duty. 

Because of her vigilance and the actions of two lifeguards who remained calm in the face of a life or death situation and administered emergency aid just as they were trained, a young four year old is alive and well. And for that, everyone is thankful.