A20-year-old lifeguard is being hailed as a hero for saving a baby’s life on a New Jersey beach.
Peter LaQuaglia has already performed over 20 rescues out at sea in his short life-saving career. But although he didn’t even step foot in the ocean, he described saving the life of the 10-month-year-old on June 9 as the “scariest moment” of his life.
LaQuaglia was on his lunch break on the boardwalk, eating pizza, when he heard screaming from numerous people, according to Seaside Heights Beach Patrol.
“He immediately ran to the scene and there was a 10-month-old with trouble breathing and ready to fall unconscious,” said a statement by the beach patrol unit on social media. “Pete knew something was blocking his airway and he was choking.”
The young lifeguard successfully performed the Heimlich maneuver, dislodging a piece of plastic from the 10-month-old.
“The 10-month-old was checked over by the Tri-Boro first aid and he made a full recovery,” said the patrol officer, saying that Laquaglia had remained “cool under pressure.”
But although his actions were calm and collected on the outside, inside, it was another story.
“Probably the scariest moment of my life knowing I literally had someone’s life in my hands,” the young lifeguard said, according to CBS New York.
He has pulling drowning victims from rough waters and rip currents—but this was his first medical emergency.
“I was pretty scared when it was happening,” LaQuaglia told AAP. “I grabbed the baby, I flipped him over on my knee, with his head down, and then patted him on the back — you have to give a pretty good hit without causing any additional harm.”
After dislodging the piece of plastic—which turned out to the plastic ring that came off a water bottle—LaQuaglia laid the baby down on the boardwalk and, using his fingers, opened up the infant’s airway.
Other beach patrol staff were rushing to the scene with a defibrillator and oxygen—which were not needed due to LaQuaglia’s quick actions.
“By the time I got there, I saw the two slices of pizza dropped on the boardwalk,” Beach Patrol Captain Rob Connor told NJ.com. “And I knew those were our guys.”
Even when they are on a break, the local lifeguards like to stay close to the shore in case of emergency. LaQuaglia and a colleague were headed to Spicy Cantina, which is located just behind the lifeguard station.
But as he started eating his buffalo chicken pizza, a woman ran up and said a baby a few storefronts down was choking, he said. The woman had been begging passersby for help—but some had just kept on walking.
LaQuaglia threw his pizza on the ground and rushed over to the grandmother and choking baby.
Luckily for the 10-month-old, Laquaglia had just renewed his CPR license a few weeks earlier.
“Having been on beach patrol for five years, stuff really does happen in the blink of an eye,” LaQuaglia told NJ.com. “You can be just sitting on the stands watching the water and something can happen in a split second. You just have to react to it. It’s right time, right place.”
The course covers the Four Steps of Pediatric First Aid and modules in:
Pediatric First Aid
Child/Infant CPR AED
Adult CPR AED
Asthma Care Training