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VANCOUVER  – Quick action by two CUPE lifeguards saved an 11-year-old boy at the University of British Columbia. Colton Boechler went into cardiac arrest while swimming at the UBC Aquatic Centre Saturday.

When Colton collapsed at the side of the pool, lifeguards Aaron Stryd and Jane Bellet took over. The pair immediately performed CPR and used a portable defibrillator (AED) to keep Colton alive. He has since had surgery and is on the mend.  Bellet and Stryd are members of CUPE 116 at UBC.

Jane Bellet was passing by the pool when she saw her colleague bending over a lifeless Colton. She says her training kicked in automatically as she and Stryd worked in tandem to test for heart rhythm and perform oral ventilation and chest compressions after Colton’s heart stopped.  They kept that up until paramedics arrived a few minutes later.

She says the scariest part was realizing there was no pulse. “When I attached the AED it called for giving a shock right away – that’s when I knew it was very serious. My training took over as we gave him CPR, but the hardest part was seeing how he looked. I was so worried, I thought he might be dead – I love kids and his face seemed so lifeless – I just kept hoping and hoping that he would be okay.”

It makes me really appreciate the ongoing training that we get at UBC so we can be prepared for things like this,” Bellet added. She says her last refresher course was in January. It turns out that Colton has a heart condition and the cardiac arrest could have happened anywhere. “It’s good that it happened at the pool,” says Bellet, “because we were there and so was the AED and oxygen.”

Bellet says the dramatic rescue was a first in her seven years as a lifeguard at UBC.  “I’ve dealt with lots of swimmers having trouble, but this was different – it was a child and we had to restart his heart.”

Stryd is the Aquatic Centre’s head instructor and started at UBC in 2009. 

They are true heroes,” said CUPE Local 116 president Colleen Garbe. “We are all so proud of our members for their heroic efforts – I can’t express how lucky we are to have such competent professions in our bargaining unit. This is an extreme example of just how vital the support work CUPE members do here at the university can be.”

Garbe also extolled the quality of the lifeguard training programs negotiated by CUPE under in-service training and educational opportunities in the collective agreement.

Garbe called Stryd and Bellet “wonderful - true examples for all of us – they exemplify the quality, dedication, and respect we aspire to.”

Does Jane Bellet think she’s a hero?  “Not really – mad props to the people like paramedics who do this every day out on the frontlines putting themselves at risk.” She does say that what happened finally hit home when her sister told her “this is a gift you have given this family – their child is alive!”  She adds that she and Aaron are just happy that he’s alive saying “that’s the real story” and that they can hardly wait to meet Colton again, once he’s feeling better.

Wages for lifeguards at the UBC Aquatic Centre range from $14.30/hr to a senior rate of $15.45/hr.