Lifeguards at a recreational center in Prince George's County, Maryland, are credited with saving the life of a local pastor whose heart stopped while he swam laps.
On May 12, the pastor was doing his usual exercise, swimming a few laps in the pool at the Prince George's Sports and Learning Complex in Landover when, suddenly, his heart stopped.
"All I remember is I turned and then they tell me I just dropped to the bottom of the pool," said Reverend Dr. Earl Trent, the senior pastor at Florida Avenue Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.
Jonathan Cabatbat, fieldhouse assistant manager for the complex, was watching CPR training videos when the call came over the radio. He rushed to the pool and pulled the pastor’s lifeless body onto the deck. Trent had no pulse and wasn’t breathing.
Lifeguard Sydnee Minor grabbed an emergency difribulator. Marcus Brown, another lifeguard on staff, grabbed an oxygen tank. Those quick decisions meant the difference between life and death for Trent.
"It was not my time, but it was time for them to pull in," Trent said.
"The lifeguards here knew what to do. They verbalized it; they got the materials needed and we were able to save someone's life," Cabatbat said.
Officials say the incident illustrates the vital importance of lifeguards, and puts more urgency on the county's need to hire more of them.
"The more you tax them, the harder it is to stay alert," said Rodney McIlwain, director of program services for the Prince George's Sports and Learning Complex.
McIlwain says a shortage of lifeguards impacts morale, and his lifeguards are overworked.
"We're definitely at our limit, you know, you can see their eyes -- they have to stay alert so we want to make sure they're not burned out," McIlwain said.
For Cabatbat, Trent’s ordeal illustrates how rewarding being a lifeguard can be.
"Faith is a daily part of his life, his routine and his profession," Cabatbat said.
"I'm hoping other people in our community who come to the facility have faith in us.
"Thank God for them. Preparation meeting opportunity. That's the blessing," Trent said.