By Daja Terry
The anxiety of the day had died down as the afternoon rolled around on Thursday, June 21. A calm washed over Wrightsville Beach, and rookie lifeguard Dani Stanfield-Tridico watched over the people enjoying the water and sun. Within seconds, though, the newly trained rescuer had to put her skills to the test to save the life of a 10-year-old boy.
“I’d gone into a zen mode,” Stanfield-Tridico said. “Just chilling, keeping tabs on everyone.”
The waves were calm, and there had been no disturbances along her stretch of beach. A brother and sister were playing in the surf right in front of her stand at about 4 p.m. at beach access No. 1 when Stanfield-Tridico noticed that the boy went under.
“I didn’t think anything was wrong at first,” she said. “Kids like to play like they’re dead all the time, so I didn’t immediately react.”
When the boy’s sister looked worriedly over to their family sitting on the beach, though, Stanfield-Tridico knew to take action.
“I didn’t think,” she said. “I remembered my training, and I just did what I needed to do.”
Stanfield-Tridico credits the training she underwent in the Wrightsville Beach Fire Department Ocean Rescue program that produces the lifeguards who line the Wrightsville Beach shore. Two months ago she would have never been able to do what she did that day, Stanfield-Tridico said, adding that it was fortunate that her training was still fresh in her mind.
“The fire department beats it into you,” she said. “I was not as fit two months ago. I came from University of South Carolina, majoring in advertising and minoring in graphic design and Chinese. I had absolutely no experience in being a lifeguard. They completely transformed me.”
Harnessing these newfound skills from the fire department’s program, she pulled the unconscious boy from the water. With blue lining his lips, she knew he was cyanic, meaning oxygen wasn’t getting to his lungs. She immediately used the five rescue breaths to resuscitate the 10-year-old boy. The rescue breaths are a new addition to the Ocean Rescue training for first response.
“There was a blockage in his upper chest,” she said. “It was weird because I went into this meditative state. I knew just what to do.”
With this being her first year as a lifeguard, Stanfield-Tridico said she is glad she was able to execute her training and save the life of the boy.
“It’s a win for me. I’m proud of myself and I’m so grateful to the fire department,” she said. “They’re the heart and soul of our work. Without them, none of this would have been possible.”
After Stanfield-Tridico resuscitated him, paramedics took the boy to the hospital, where he was responsive. The boy was taken to the hospital for examination but was released later that day.
Ocean Rescue Capt. Jeremy Owens credited Stanfield-Tridico’s quick response and efforts for the positive outcome of the rescue.
“It was a big moment for her. It was her first rescue and she did really well,” Owens said of Stanfield-Tridico. “By the time we got there, the boy was doing really well, he was responsive and talking with us.”