Carson pool staff lauded for saving boy's life

Shannon Litz/Nevada AppealBenjamin Anderson, 11, talks about what he has been doing since he got out of the hospital.

Shannon Litz/Nevada AppealBenjamin Anderson, 11, talks about what he has been doing since he got out of the hospital.

What could have been the worst day of the Anderson family's life when 11-year-old Benjamin sank to the bottom of the Carson City pool, turned out to be a miracle.

"If he wasn't at the pool," said his dad, Darren, "if he was anywhere else, he probably wouldn't have made it."

During routine swim lessons Oct. 27 at the Carson City Aquatic Center, Ben suddenly let go of his kick board and dropped down in the water.

When the instructor realized he wasn't playing around, she jumped in and pulled him out.

She and other lifeguards started administering CPR. When that didn't work, they used the aquatic center's automated external defibrillator, which ended up saving his life.

"The fact that they did it within one minute of his heart stopping saved him," explained Ben's mom, Niki.

Ben was later diagnosed with what is commonly referred to as Sudden Death Syndrome, a heart condition that is nearly impossible to detect until the heart stops.

"The doctors said the first symptom is usually death," Niki said. "We were one of the lucky ones."

The family joined staff from Care Flight on Thursday to thank the pool staff for their quick actions in resuscitating Ben.

"These public safety entities deal with trauma and medical emergencies on a regular basis," said Kurt Althof, public relations manager with Care Flight. "Pool lifeguards are well trained and capable, but it is rare that their CPR skills get put to the test in a real life or death situation."

The Dayton family shook hands with and hugged everyone from the pool staff to Care Flight medics and firefighters.

They also thanked Bill Hartman, 71, who was instrumental, along with four fellow lap swimmers, in getting the automated external defibrillator at the pool.

"It's ironic," he said. "We thought we needed one for us old guys, but it saved the life of an 11 year old. It's amazing."

When Ben was pulled from the water, everyone initially assumed it was a near-drowning.

It soon became apparent something worse had happened, but medics weren't sure what. Ben was taken by ambulance to Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center, then by Care Flight to Renown Regional Medical Center then on to Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake City.

With three other children at home, the Andersons arranged for family to meet Ben at the hospital in Salt Lake, and they drove to meet them.

"I think the worst was that drive across Nevada," Darren said. "We were scared for him and we hadn't slept in 24 hours."

Even at the hospital, doctors weren't sure what had happened.

"For the first week, they were just baffled" Niki said. "They had no idea what was wrong with him."

Once they narrowed down the cause, they implanted him with a pacemaker and defibrillator that now regulates his heart.

That was the first thing Ben remembers of the accident and his stay in the hospital. What stands out for him the most: "I missed Halloween," he said.

But he plans on recycling his Spock costume for this year's celebration.

He's back home now with his siblings Brittni, Ethan and Ryan and attending classes at Dayton Intermediate School.

Carson City Mayor Bob Crowell praised the life-saving efforts of the pool staff, and expressed his gratitude for their actions.

"Benjamin, we're terribly proud and thankful you're here," he said.

Although shy by nature and a bit overwhelmed at all the attention Thursday, Niki said her oldest son should not be underestimated.

"He's a fighter," she said. "Otherwise, he wouldn't be here."


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