By Matthew Salzano ’18
PLU Marketing & Communications
TACOMA, Wash. (March 23, 2015)—Thanks to two intrepid lifeguard Lutes, a retired Lute lives to see another day.
On Jan. 28, Anna Volk ’16 and Gray Endicott ’15 saved the life of retired Pacific Lutheran University staff member John Neary.
Neary had participated in AM Public Lap swims in the PLU pool at least three days a week for about 30 years— most lifeguards knew him by name.
Volk greeted Neary as he came in at approximately 8 a.m.; he did his normal routine of giving a little wave to the guards and opening a door to ward off stuffiness.
“I didn’t wake up that day knowing something was going to happen,” Volk said. “Everything seemed normal—it was baffling.”
But once in the pool, Neary stopped moving and began sinking around 8:07 a.m. He was having a heart attack.
Endicott and Volk worked together to pull Neary out of the pool. Volk called Campus Safety’s emergency line and 911.
Endicott began to perform CPR and revived Neary’s pulse and breath, but lost it after approximately 30 seconds. By this time, Professional Safety Officer Joe Olson and Student Safety Officer Joseph Delgado had arrived and, with the assistance of Volk, had prepared the defibrillator. Endicott had delivered one shock when the EMT arrived and took over.
While Volk and Endicott both described this as feeling like a “lifetime,” the entire event took place in a matter of five minutes or so.
Neary does not remember the day—or the five to six days afterward—but is now up, walking and fully recovered. He said his physicians have called him a “miracle man.”
Neary knows his recovery is miraculous but doesn’t take credit himself.
“I’m not really a miracle man, but I know someone who is,” he said. “The Lord really protects me and helps me in a lot of ways. It’s a God thing for sure.”
The lifeguards are relieved—and reflective.
“I’m so happy that John recovered fully; that means the most to me,” Endicott said. “It’s a great feeling.”
Volk said the incident was sobering, but it helped her realize how her actions can have a real impact on people.
“It was a big relief to know that he survived, and that what we did made an impact on someone’s life, helped someone see another day,” Volk said. “It’s a very sobering effect, to see that someone that you know could pass away at an instant. But we helped him see another day, and his family can enjoy him for a lot longer.”
Neary will have quadruple bypass surgery on Tuesday.
“If you know someone who’s praying, have them say one for me,” he said.