ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- What seemed to be a calm day at the beach for a 36th Medical Group nurse and her family took a turn for the worse in a matter of seconds.
On March 12, Elizabeth Tullis, 36th MDG registered nurse, took a trip to Ypao Beach to spend the day with her husband and daughters when she noticed a woman carrying what looked like a lifeless body to shore.
“At first I wasn’t sure what was happening, but I soon realized these people needed help,” Tullis recalled. “I asked my husband to call 911 right away. Someone was yelling at the lifeguard for help and he headed into the water to meet them. He started to give rescue breaths to the girl who was being carried.”
The lifeguard was on his third chest compression when Tullis arrived on the scene and offered assistance to the first responder. She ensured to stabilize the girl’s head and cleared her airway. After a few more compressions, the girl finally started to choke, and the rescuers rolled her on her side to allow water to escape.
“We checked her for a pulse and saw she was breathing,” Tullis said. “She was very lethargic, but I was squeezing her hand and asking her questions. Even though she couldn’t do or say much, she opened her eyes when I would ask her, which was a good sign.”
After what seemed like a long time of waiting and monitoring the victim, the ambulance finally arrived on scene to take the child and her mother to the hospital.
Tullis said she was concerned and followed up with local media to find out that the girl had survived and was recovering.
“It was a relief because normally we hear bad news about people not making it after a drowning incident,” Tullis said. “More than anything, I would love to see her again before I leave Guam.”
With her past experience as a lifeguard, swim instructor and nurse, Tullis was able to do all she could without an automated external defibrillator or other devices that would help her.
“Sometimes it seems as if we hear about drownings every weekend and there’s no reason for this,” Tullis said. “When I left that day I started to think about what I could have done better.”
She said it is essential for anyone who enters the water to travel with a buddy and to have a first aid kit or supplies handy in the event of an emergency.
She also cautioned to take small water safety incidents seriously because of the danger of dry drowning which can happen especially in younger children. When kids swallow too much water, it can build up in their lungs leading to severe complications later on. She encourages parents and family members to always keep remain to prevent situations like this from happening.
“The waters around Guam are very beautiful, but could be very hazardous due to the very strong and unforgiving currents,” said Tech. Sgt. Bradly Preston, 36th Wing flight safety NCO in charge. “Always use proper personal protective equipment and know the current conditions of the area prior to engaging in water activities. It is important to always have a buddy with you. They can be a rational voice of reason and identify a hazardous condition you might not be aware of.”
For any questions regarding water safety or which beaches are safe, contact the wing safety office at 366-3325.