La Jolla YMCA lifeguards honored for life-saving rescue: Sept. 24 named ‘Dan McKinney Family Y Lifeguards Day’


The Dan McKinney Family YMCA lifeguards and aquatic staff were honored by the San Diego City Council for a heroic rescue that took place at its 8355 Cliffridge Ave. facility in July during which a man’s live was saved. Speaking to her City Council colleagues, Council President Pro Tem Barbara Bry proclaimed Sept. 24, 2018 as “Dan McKinney Family YMCA Lifeguards Day” in the City of San Diego.

On July 17, YMCA patron Peter Kaufman went into cardiac arrest in the locker room. When he was discovered, he was unconscious, ashen and blue, and without a pulse. But thanks to the Dan McKinney Family YMCA lifeguards who sprang into action and revived him, Kaufman was able to witness the proclamation in City Council chambers.

“I’m standing here today instead of lying under a tombstone because of decisions the YMCA made about funding a state-of-the-art lifesaving program for its employees for the benefit of its members (and for providing) the training they gave their employees and lifeguards to be able to provide effective service and use of those life saving techniques and equipment,” Kaufman told the City Council.

Reflecting on the details of the rescue, YMCA Aquatics Coordinator David Kreamer later told the Light: “It was a big day ... it’s what we train for and the incident was as big as it could have gotten. All lifeguards undergo training, and they practice a lot, but this is was a reminder as to how important it is. As a lifeguard in San Diego for 10 years, you go through all this training and it can seem redundant ... and then something like this happens. We’re glad to see all this training works. We don’t do this every day.”

Although it was his day off, Kreamer was on site to help staff reopen one of the pools following a closure the morning of July 17. There were a few lifeguards on duty and a few more in the office.

“A patron came out screaming that there was an emergency in one of the locker rooms. They were calling help, help, help just trying to alert somebody,” he said. Because there was emergency response equipment in the office, Kreamer dispatched the lifeguards in the office to respond.

“I stopped by the office to grab my own equipment and followed them into the men’s locker room. Upon walking into the locker room, Mr. Kaufman was lying on his back between two smaller stalls. I knew this was a big deal,” he said.

Kreamer sent two lifeguards to call 911 and assessed Kaufman’s condition.

“I checked for consciousness and there was none; he was discolored and looked gray, ashen and blue; there was a fair amount of blood in his mouth blocking his airway; I checked for a pulse and breathing and got nothing. He was in bad shape,” he said, noting that at this time, fellow lifeguard Alex Liske was setting up the Automated External Defibrillator (AED).

As Kreamer started chest compressions, Dan McKinney Family YMCA Associate Executive Director Jason Milosh arrived and the two moved Kaufman so they could access his airway and place AED pads on his chest.

“I continued compressions and Alex (Liske) got the pads on for the AED and the device powered up and determined a shock was needed,” Kreamer said. “We backed away and Jason delivered the shock, and once it was safe I administered CPR. There was a large amount of blood in his mouth and we were able to clear his airway (with suction) and deliver breath. We continued for two minutes and after that, AED determined a shock wasn’t needed.”

Around this time, Kreamer said, Kaufman’s color started to come back, he started coughing on his own and showing signs of life.

“He came back,” Kreamer said.

Soon after, emergency personnel arrived and took over, and transported Kaufman to the hospital.

A week or two later, Kaufman returned to the YMCA and thanked the lifeguards who brought him back from the brink. “He was in on his own two feet and it was great to see,” Kreamer said.

Standing proud at the City Council to participate in the proclamation ceremony, Kaufman said he has read about a lot about cardiac arrest since his episode.

“Across the country, anywhere from 5 to 6 percent of people with cardiac arrest outside of a hospital survive,” he reported. “But what struck me most, however, is that there isn’t sufficient training to save lives in those situations. Fortunately, my event occurred where there was the equipment and training and the quick thinking and care. I thank all of you. Just this past week, I got to see my children go to college and I will, hopefully, continue to work out at the Y. I appreciate it all.”

Milosh added, in his remarks to the City Council, while motioning to Kaufman: “We love seeing your smiling face and look forward to having you back at the YMCA, hopefully, sooner rather than later. Our team is honored to be recognized. To all first responders out there, thank you. The courage you show running toward an emergency while everyone else is running away is unwavering and the mettle you display when people’s lives are in your hands is masterful. Everyone at the Y can rest easy knowing they are in good hands.”

Cardiac arrest is a sudden, unexpected loss of heart function, and is often accompanied by loss of breath and consciousness. According to the American Heart Association, “Death occurs within minutes if the victim does not receive treatment.”

— Dan McKinney Family YMCA is at 8355 Cliffridge Ave. (858) 453-3483. and