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Seven Lifeguards, Including a Future EMT, Unite to Save a Life

Politics may make strange bedfellows, as the saying goes, but they have nothing on the diverse pairings sometimes seen when cardiac arrest occurs.

On June 27, 2015, 40-year-old seasoned professional, James Ross (J.R.) Bourne, was “kicking around” a soccer ball with his friend, Luis Sanchez, on Jacksonville Beach, Fla. when he suddenly collapsed in the sand.

His next recollection, J.R. says, is someone shouting, ‘we have a pulse,” then, ‘oh wait we don’t,’ although he is not sure if those were actual shouts or his mind playing tricks on him during the event.

Then came two defibrillator shocks – he thinks – and the sense that his hands were hot – “almost burning.” While all this was whirling through his mind, what the Manager, Marketing Partnerships for the Professional Golf Association (PGA) was unaware of was the team of other professionals who were rushing to his aid.

In all, seven lifeguards were honored by the city of Jacksonville Beach for meritorious service because of their quick response to what could have been a fatal event. The first to the scene was 19-year-old lifeguard and future EMT Samantha (Sam) Peters. “(J.R.) wasn’t breathing,” Sam remembers, “so I checked to see if he had a pulse (he didn’t) and started CPR.

Sam did not have an automated external defibrillator (AED), but one quickly arrived and two shocks were administered to restore J.R.’s heart to sinus rhythm. By that time, the ambulance that had been called at the first sign of the emergency had arrived to take the revived man to the hospital. As Sam puts it, “the cardiac chain of survival was flawless in this case.”

That chain included lifeguards Gordy VanDusen and Travis Blakeslee, among others, staying in constant touch with EMTs who were racing to the scene.

So, if it wasn’t for a teenager just starting out in a career dedicated to helping those in jeopardy and a group of other young men and women who were following that same path, a marketing veteran and husband might have lost his life.

That irony is not lost on J.R. “I think about my incident daily like I’m sure many survivors do,” he said in an email interview, noting that he frequents the spot of the rescue during morning walks as he had for years before the incident. And he still keeps in touch with his rescuers, none of whom he knew prior to that time.

“I’ve been in contact with all of them,” he said. “I email message them all, Gordy the most because he’s a local firefighter and (still) an active lifeguard.” J.R. believes that his angels and others like them are “truly heroes and pillars in their community,” and should not be taken for granted.

To that end, he is participating in the marketing and promotion of the Jackson Beach volunteer program which was established over 100 years ago, saying “I’m hoping to get a commemorative memorial up soon and support the growth of the program.”

That program will no doubt continue to unite diverse groups of people who may not otherwise get to know each other and, in some cases, may even save lives.


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