When 16-year-old Jairen Burns decided to work as a life guard at the Parsons Municipal Swimming Pool this summer, she thought there was little chance she would get to save a life.
“This is my first year. With there being so many adults around anyway, you don’t expect anyone to drown to the point they are passive,” Burns said.
Little did she know it was not the public pool where her training would be tested. It would be at her own home.
Lynn Thomas, Burns’ grandmother, said her 3-year-old great-nephew, Jackson Martin, and two of his older brothers who were there visiting had gone out of the house to play hide-and-seek without asking.
Jackson decided he was going to go hide in the big pool and told the middle brother where he was going to hide from the oldest.
“He opened the gate and got through and went in the big pool,” Thomas said.
His brothers found him minutes later, face down in the water.
“I had just gotten out of the shower. I’m not sure what time it was. It was Wednesday,” Burns recalled as she sat on the steps of the public pool during her break.
She said her grandmother’s sister, who was visiting from Texas, was folding laundry, and her grandmother was taking a cat nap. No one knew the boys had slipped outside to play.
“The next thing I knew, my sister was coming screaming through the house in a panic, saying Jackson was in the pool. From that point, I don’t think I thought about anything that happened. I just acted,” Burns said. “I ran outside. He was floating face down and was not moving at all. I jumped in and pulled him out. When I laid him on the deck, his grandma was on the other side and she started to do compressions. I pulled her hands off and told her to let me check him before she started to do anything. He was completely blue, so I didn’t need to check for any breath because he hadn’t been breathing for a little bit. I thought he had been in the pool for three to five minutes, but I wasn’t sure how long they were even outside.”
Mrs. Thomas went inside to call 911.
“She literally took a lifeless body out of the pool,” Thomas said, her voice shaking as she retold the story. “There was no pulse. No breathing. She started CPR and I called 911.”
Burns said she gave Jackson two breaths from inside the pool and then jumped out because he still hadn’t done anything and she began compressions.
“It wasn’t until the second round of CPR that he actually spit up a little bit, but he still wasn’t breathing, so I kept going after waiting a few seconds,” Burns said. “It took us about five rounds to actually get a breath, but once he started to gurgle a little bit, I set him on his side and he threw up onto the ground and groaned a little bit. He was conscience at that point, but I don’t think he was responsive. I kept talking to him until the paramedics got there.”
“Everything that the woman on the other end at 911 told me to do, Jairen had already done, so she was right on top of her training. She stayed right on top of it. She got him breathing and got him to spit up water. She was absolutely beyond excellent until the EMTs got there,” Thomas said. “I was in so much shock. Jairen is an exceptional teenager. I couldn’t even begin to tell you how proud I am of her. If anybody could have done anything and do the correct thing, it would have been her. It was beyond wonderful to see her get in there and do what she was trained to do. … When we saw that first jerk and cough and stuff, it was just … It’s something that is hard to describe.”
“My biggest fear was I would freeze up to where I didn’t know what to do, but there was no thought to it. It just kind of happens,” Burns said. “I had good teachers. Obviously it was real emotional for all of us. I tried to stay calm because calm makes things flow. Afterwards, I was calming everyone else down while the police and paramedics were trying to get statements.”
Jackson was transported to the hospital and stayed there overnight.
“He’s good now. He got out of the hospital yesterday, and he is home now with his mom,” Burns said.
Parsons Recreation Commission administrator Arianna Bennett said the staff is extremely proud of Burns and the fact that she took her training seriously, outside of her work, in order to save a life.
“We hope this makes the public know they are safe here, having lifeguards that go above and beyond and can do what needs to be done in a real-life situation,” Bennett said.
Bennett gave a special shout out to the CORE and pool manager Donna Stout for providing the training and knowledge for the lifeguards to keep the pool and their patrons safe every day.
“We are grateful to have Jairen on our team,” she said.
Thomas said they are thankful Burns was able to save Jackson, and they are taking the matter seriously.
“The one thing I especially believe in now is never say never. The padlock was not on the gate at the time, though the gate was closed and latched, and he is 3. If someone was to say, ‘Oh, that wouldn’t happen to me,’ wrong. It happens. It happens in the blink of an eye. All it took was a blink,” Thomas said. “We have custody of all three of our granddaughters and I have told them Sunday morning when we get up, first thing we are going to do is Jairen is going to give us CPR lessons.”