It was a typical Friday night at the pool. Lots of kids, lots of splashing, short staffed. We had just rotated lifeguards and I was on my 20 minute break. I was cleaning up around the pool when I noticed a kid in a life jacket venture into the deep end - a big fat NO at our pool. So, I walked around the deck to go talk to him and get him out of the deep end. As I'm crouching down talking to him, the lifeguard in the chair screamed my name. I looked up and the mom of this child had ventured into the deep end to get him. She couldn't swim and she was actively drowning.
I immediately left the kid (he was fine; he was in a life jacket) and jumped in the pool. I swam to her quickly, grabbed her, and began kicking towards the shallow end. Because I was not the lifeguard on duty, I did not have a rescue tube which means my only flotation was my swimming skills. The woman freaked out and grabbed me around the neck, taking me down with her. In my head I was totally panicking and doing what I could do to keep the both of us safe. I kept hold of her, but I was trying to push her off to keep the both of us from drowning (we are taught escapes for this exact reason). Finally I was able to catch a breath and ask her to kick with me. She said she couldn't. Yikes! What seemed like an eternity later I was able to kick her the few feet to the shallow end where she grabbed hold of the rope and stood up.
My husband and kid were swimming at the time and saw the whole thing happen. Dave helped me get out of the pool, saying it was the scariest and coolest thing he's ever seen. I talked to the woman about what happened and grabbed my manager-on-duty to help fill out an incident report. There were several things we could have done better on this rescue - should have hit our emergency button, the other guard should have cleared the pool and thrown me a rescue tube, etc. - but the important thing was we helped the woman, no one drowned, and everything turned out just fine.
The rest of the night I was a wreck. I literally shook and cried sitting in the guard chair for the rest of my shift. I had a lot of adrenaline running through my body and thinking back to what I did was just scary. That night I had a nightmare about it. Looking back I'm so thankful we are so well trained, that I was in the right place at the right time, and that I'm in amazing shape and could perform the rescue without the use of a tube. It was so scary; I don't want to do it again any time soon.