Laura Hitchen (right)

Laura Hitchen (right)

Lifeguard puts training to great use

When 13-month-old Blaine McKay started choking on a coin at the Vernon Recreation Complex, Laura Hitchen sprang into action

Blaine McKay is a typical toddler — quick as a bunny and curious about everything around him.

But those traits could have got him into serious trouble if it hadn’t been for the quick actions of Laura Hitchen, a lifeguard at the Vernon Recreation Complex pool.

“I thank God she was there and she was so calm,” said Melaney McKay, Blaine’s mom, of Hitchen.

“It could have been tragic.”

On Jan. 3 just before 10:30 a.m., McKay was in a change room with her mom and 13-month-old Blaine and  getting ready to go for a swim.

“I put him on the change table and he started gagging. My mom said, ‘Where’s my quarter?” (which had been pulled out for a locker),” said McKay.

Concerned her son was choking, McKay ran out into the main pool area and approached Hitchen.

“His cheeks were going red and he was totally obstructed,” said Hitchen, a lifeguard since 1996.

She immediately dropped to one knee and initiated a back-blow process in an attempt to dislodge the quarter.

“On the fifth blow, I heard a grunt. I gave one more blow and he screamed. It was the best sound in the world,” said Hitchen.

However, the coin was still stuck in Blaine’s throat so she continued with more back-blows.

“Finally, he spat the quarter out and you could hear the ting-ting of it hitting the floor,” said Hitchen.

Paramedics took Blaine to Vernon Jubilee Hospital but he was declared to be uninjured.

This is the first time Hitchen has had to assist someone choking but all lifeguards at the swimming pool undergo regular life-saving training.

“It always goes through your mind of what you’ll do,” she said.

“I felt very comfortable and calm.”

Hitchen is quick to give credit to colleagues Vanessa Robert, who kept an eye on swimmers, and Rae Kievit, who called 911. There is also considerable praise for Blaine’s mom.

“Melaney was so quick. She realized something was wrong and brought him to us. The outcome was quicker because of that,” said Hitchen.

The trio were reunited Thursday prior to Blaine  heading out into the pool for some fun.

“She was so awesome. She’s a hero to us,” said McKay of Hitchen.

Hitchen plays down the accolades.

“I just did my job. That’s what we train for,” she said.