Veteran Edgartown lifeguard fell back on training and did not stop
For the past eight years, Liza Reynolds of Tisbury has spent her summers working as a lifeguard at South Beach in Edgartown. It is a job that requires a high level of dedication to a regimen of daily training and physical conditioning.
On Saturday afternoon, Ms. Reynolds, who graduated this spring from Middlebury College, had the day off. The 23-year-old decided to spend the day at Long Point with her family. Her brother and his girlfriend had gone for a walk down the beach.
Suddenly, Ms. Reynolds's mother received a call on her cell phone. She immediately handed it to Liza. It was her brother. "Liza, someone needs your help. Get down here right now," he said.
Ms. Reynolds, the head lifeguard at South Beach, set off down the beach running as fast as she could toward where she assumed she was needed, near the cut through the barrier beach. "I didn't know if I needed to look in the water, or for something on land," she said. "I just kept running."
Ms. Reynolds did not see anything but continued to the cut about a mile down the beach where she saw a crowd of people on the other side. She swam across and saw Mr. Shedd lying on the beach, unresponsive.
"I just saw a lifeless person lying there," Ms. Reynolds said. She immediately took control of the situation and organized the lifesaving effort. Out of breath from her run and swim, she instructed a male bystander to administer rescue breaths while she began chest compressions.
Done correctly, CPR requires a demanding physical effort on the part of the rescuer. Despite the need to rest, Ms. Reynolds was reluctant to take a break for very long, concerned that a well-meaning but ineffective effort might mean the difference between life and death. "You really need to compress the ribs, an inch, an inch and a half," she said. "You need to be breaking ribs for anything to be effective."
A man Ms. Reynolds only knew as Eric assisted. "He was really good, and we basically switched on and off," she said.
In an emergency situation on South Beach, Ms. Reynolds has always been able to rely on the immediate back-up of her fellow lifeguards. There is always support. "The EMTs are able to get to us right away, but in this case it was really tough," she said. "I kept feeling like I was alone in this a little bit."
Despite the emotional circumstances, Ms. Reynolds stayed focused on her job. "All I was thinking about was not stopping," she said. "And I was hoping someone would show up who would have more equipment, or for the AED to come so I could put those pads on and see if I could give him a shock to help him out. I just didn't stop."
Ms. Reynolds kept thinking about the rescue of a man a few weeks ago on South Beach. He was also totally unresponsive. "It was always in the back of my mind," Ms. Reynolds said. "If they could bring him back, maybe I can bring this guy back. Very different scenarios, but you always have to have hope."
As Ms. Reynolds worked to save Mr. Shedd, his wife held her husband's hand and urged him to stay strong and keep fighting. And she kept asking when rescuers would arrive.
It was very hard, the young lifeguard said, to see the desperation in the woman's eyes.
"I hope that at least me being there could have given her some hope that we were doing everything that we could," Ms. Reynolds said.
EMTs arrived and transported Mr. Shedd off the beach. Ms. Reynolds was physically and emotionally drained. "It was tough," she said. "I did everything I could."