Bethesda Magazine | July-August 2017

Kids and Water Safety

A Potomac mother shares the story of her son's nonfatal drowning. Find out what she's doing to promote CPR training and prevent drownings.

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With help from his mom, Laura, and Rescue One instructor Lenora Carr, Clay practices doing chest compressions on a training mannequin during a demonstration of a CPR Party at his family’s Potomac home. Photo by Skip Brown

Kneeling on a white pillow, Clay leans over a training mannequin lying on the hardwood floor of the Metro family’s living room one afternoon this May. He carefully places his right palm flat on the center of the mannequin’s chest and covers it with his left palm, interlacing his fingers. Then he tries several times to press down firmly.

“I can’t do it,” he says, his shaggy mop of dirty-blond hair sliding back and forth with each motion. “It’s hard.”

His mom, who’s performing the same compressions on her own mannequin, urges him to try again. So does Rescue One instructor Lenora Carr, who suggests that singing a song with a strong beat can help create a rhythm for doing compressions. So they all begin singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” as the young boy presses down again and again.

Laura arranged the CPR training to demonstrate the mission of CPR Party. Through its partnership with Rescue One, the group has held parties in homes and offices across the country, teaching hundreds the importance of knowing how to administer CPR and how to use an AED in an emergency. Though the foundation hopes to secure funding to offer free training, it currently charges party hosts $300 to cover the cost of supplying a trained instructor and other expenses.

“Laura’s idea was that she’s very fortunate that Clay was resuscitated by somebody that took a chance at trying CPR, and that’s absolutely what saved Clay’s life—having somebody mechanically take care of what Clay couldn’t do on his own while help was on the way,” says Rescue One founder Jeremy Gruber, a former Montgomery County firefighter and paramedic. “She realized how many people don’t know what to do.”

Laura says she’s found that most people who attend a CPR Party feel empowered by their ability to help in an emergency after they learn the basic skills. “The thing I notice a lot is people don’t realize it was this burden they were carrying, and then when they’re done they’re like, ‘I am so glad I did that,’ ” she says. During the parties, instructors also talk about the different roles people can play in an emergency, such as calling 911 or ushering children or others away from the scene. “So you are not just training people in compressions, you are training people in first-aid response.”

As she watched her son learn CPR this spring, Laura realized that her life had, in a sense, come full circle.