‘The right people were around:’ Bystanders save 5-year-old girl after pool drowning in P.A.

Parkland Ambulance stresses importance of water safety because 'it can happen to anybody'

Paramedic Cory Kulcheski gives five-year-old Traylynn a stuffed animal at a media event on July 31, 2020. Kulcheski was the first to arrive on scene after Traylynn drowned in a pool. (Jayda Taylor/Daily Herald)

Five-year-old Traylynn sat in the back of an ambulance at a news conference on Friday grinning and waving at the paramedics around her—nearly three weeks earlier, she was laying on the side of a hotel pool unconscious.

Parkland Ambulance received a call on July 14 around 8:30 p.m. for a little girl in cardiac arrest after drowning. Thanks to the swift response of two bystanders, one who grabbed Traylynn out of the pool and the other who conducted CPR, she was awake when paramedics arrived on scene.

The bystanders, Mitchel Shott and Celest Okemaysin, did not attend the media event on Friday afternoon, but Parkland emphasized the important role they played in saving Traylynn’s life.

“Those people are truly instrumental in making this the happy occasion that it is today,” said Director of Public Affairs Lyle Karasiuk.

Communications Specialist Danielle Henry took the initial 911 call. When the call came in, said Henry, Okemaysin had already started CPR and they were able to send paramedics right away.

“They did a really good job and I just coached them through (CPR) to make sure it was being done correctly,” said Henry.

“It’s an honour to be here today seeing that little girl. It was quite uplifting when we found out when they had arrived on scene she was waking up. It was a really good day because we don’t get a lot of those when somebody isn’t breathing.”

She said it’s quite common to have to walk people through CPR over the phone until paramedics arrive.

(From left to right) Kolby Ellis, Levon Nagy, Traylynn, Cory Kulcheski and Danielle Henry pose at Parkland Ambulance’s west location on July 31, 2020. (Jayda Taylor/Daily Herald)

Paramedic Cory Kulcheski, who was first on scene, emphasized that “it could have turned out much worse.”

The communications team may get a family member or another bystander to start CPR in similar situations, but sometimes they’re hesitant.

“This was really fortunate. The right people were around. The girl that started CPR, she has some training.”

If there’s no blood flow in the brain, said Kulcheski, it could take as little as six minutes before someone’s chances of being revived are low. She estimated that she arrived on scene within three or four minutes of receiving the call.

Henry, Kulcheski—along with paramedics Kolby Ellis and Levon Nagy, who also responded to the call—gifted Traylynn with stickers, temporary tattoos, a crossword book and a stuffed animal. It’s not very often that they get to see the outcomes of their patients.

They stressed that it can only take one moment, when you glance at your phone or run to the washroom, for a drowning to occur. You can take a few simple steps to prevent drowning or to know what to do when it happens.

Paramedic Cory Kulcheski gives five-year-old Traylynn a stuffed animal at a media event on July 31, 2020. Kulcheski was the first to arrive on scene after Traylynn drowned in a pool. (Jayda Taylor/Daily Herald)

Another paramedic at Parkland Ambulance, Sherri Morrison, knows this all too well. When her six-year-old son became distressed after falling into the lake last week, her oldest son pulled him out.

Morrison has not only taught her children about water safety, but said it’s “a necessity” for them to take swimming lessons. As both a paramedic and a mom, she encouraged others to keep an eye on your kids around water and to make sure they’re wearing a life jacket.

“You are comfortable with those situations that you know what to do, but when it happens, your mom brain kicks in and your paramedic brain takes a back seat. All of the emotions are still there,” she said.

“Then the next day of course there was a tragedy that we had heard of in the north, so that hit home even more—that could have been me.”

“It can happen to anybody, and just in a split second.”

Paramedic Sherri Morrison shared her personal story of her oldest son pulling her youngest son out of the water after he slipped off of the dock at the lake. (Submitted)

Three people, including two six-year-olds, drowned in open water in Saskatchewan within a short period at the beginning of July.

According to a report by the Lifesaving Society of Saskatchewan, 80 per cent of drownings occur between May and September. Between 2008 and 2017, the province saw the most water-related fatalities in 2014 at 34. In 2017, there were 21 deaths.

Risk factors include not wearing a personal flotation device, alcohol consumption, swimming alone or being a weak or non-swimmer.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that Traylynn is five years old, not six. The Herald regrets the error.