Coaches’ quick action saves high school swimmer - East Valley Tribune: News

Coaches’ quick action saves high school swimmer

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Posted: Thursday, September 4, 2008 12:05 pm | Updated: 8:36 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

When the Chandler High School swim team gathered Wednesday, the first thing coach Kerry Croswhite said he told them was, "It's a beautiful day."

"We could have been gathering here under very different circumstances."

That's because during the team's regular practice the day before, Croswhite pulled junior Kandace Jilek, 16, out from the bottom of the pool.

"She was not breathing. She had no pulse," Croswhite said.

Tuesday afternoon, Croswhite was watching the swimmers from the deck when he saw a motionless body in the pool. The veteran swim coach jumped in, pulled Jilek out and started life-saving actions.

The attentiveness of Croswhite and the quick actions of assistant swim coach Stephanie Carrasco saved Jilek's life. As Croswhite performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, Carrasco called 911, kept watch over the rest of the nearly 100-member team and guided in emergency crews. Jilek, who has suffered a handful of epileptic seizures in her life, had one while swimming.

"We were not aware it was a seizure at all," Croswhite said. "We handled it as a drowning. We checked all her vitals, and I started rescue breathing."

After a few moments, Jilek coughed up water and took a few shallow breaths on her own.

Then her breathing stopped again.

Croswhite began the process all over and by the time paramedics arrived, Croswhite was sitting up, conscious, breathing on her own and very thankful.

"I just hugged him and said, 'Thank you. Thank you,'" Jilek said Wednesday.

All Chandler swim coaches are certified in CPR. Croswhite has been around water most of his career, teaching life guard training at Chandler High, managing city pools in years past and coaching in different East Valley high schools.

But like many who receive the training, he never expects to use it.

It was not the first time Croswhite has saved a swimmer. A few years ago, his quick thinking saved a swimmer at a Queen Creek pool, said Chandler athletic director Dave Shapiro.

"He kept his cool. He didn't panic. Stephanie called 911. We had fire trucks, paramedics and police on campus within minutes," he said.

It was a learning moment for all, Carrasco said.

"We always assume with a swim team we're pretty safe because the kids know how to swim. But you have to be ready for the unexpected," she said.

It also taught the kids a lesson: to watch out for each other. "You can never take it for granted," Croswhite said.

Jilek was at school Wednesday and was awaiting doctor's clearance to practice with the team.

She began swimming when she was 8 years old and has been on Chandler High's team since her freshman year. She's also a trained lifeguard.

"Today I'm feeling great. I woke up, took a shower and felt up to it," she said about coming to school.

The Chandler Unified School District governing board will recognize Croswhite at its meeting next week, district spokesman Terry Locke said.

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