There is a name that has stayed with me for over 25 years. Lowell Thomas Shelton. Our lives crossed paths back in 1980. I was in the United States Army. I was serving at Fort Sill, Oklahoma as a Computer Programmer.
One morning at muster, Top asked if anyone could swim. I raised my hand. I had been on the swim team in high school. He told me to report to pool #5. I was going to be a lifeguard. It was early May.
As I arrived at the pool, there were several people in the pool with a large man shouting at them. He looked liked Grizzly Adams, large bushy beard, unkempt hair, and a roughness from living life too hard.
He looked at me, I looked at him.
“Can you swim?”
“Do you have a swim suit?”
“Well, get one, a red one. Take this book and read it. Report back to me tomorrow morning with your suit and this book read. Dismissed.”
Snapping to attention, “Yes, sir.” I did an about face and headed for my car.
The book was the Red Cross handbook on becoming certified as a lifeguard. I read the book, got the suit, and reported back to the pool the next morning. On arrival, I saw a table with chairs and papers. All of us were being tested on the book. Part one of the certification process.
The second part was the water test. He had the others go first so I could see what they had to do. Treading water arms only, treading water hands only, swimming, rescue techniques, and so on.
The water was COLD. I had never practiced any of this. The others, a mix of civilians and military had been working on this for two weeks. Undeterred, I lifted a prayer to God and asked Him to guide me. He did. I passed both sections of the test with high grades.
I was assigned to the non-commissioned officer’s pool. Our pool chief was a civilian, about 19 years of age. We had a meeting and got to work on getting the pool ready to open.
The pool opened mid May and all was going along swimmingly. The days were hotter than normal. No breaks for lightning. Each day was the same as the last one.
On June 21st, 1980 the lives of the guards at the pool changed. Two of us were in the chairs watching, scanning the waters. Our pool had a ledge under water by which a person could creep along on the side, even in the deep water.
“Help. He’s blue!” the screams of a young boy startled all of us into action. I jumped down from the chair and looked at a 7 year old boy lying on the deck of the pool. He wasn’t breathing, he was blue.
My brief training and my God took over. Tilt the head pack, look for obstructions, listen for air, breaths, pump, check again. Behind me the other guards were clearing the pool, one called the ambulance, the silence was deafening.
Vomit, a good sign. Coughing, a good sign. Keep the airway open. Get the vomit out of the breathing path. Keep the boy calm. All of this was going through my mind, like a checklist from God.
The ambulance arrived and took Lowell Thomas Shelton for evaluation. Word came back to us that he was doing well, no brain damage, all was well.
Lowell had crawled along the edge of the pool and slipped down into the water. I couldn’t see him as he was in a blind spot. The guard across the pool couldn’t see him. The guards walking hadn’t seen him. Another young boy and his friend found him and pulled him out.
I thank God for those boys, for the check list He provided me, and for the life of Lowell Thomas Shelton. Many lives changed that day at the pool. God’s presence was abundant and life saving. Praise Him!
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