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7-year-old’s quick thinking helps save grandfather’s life at Nanaimo pool

Granddaughter, paramedics and lifeguards honoured for saving man’s life last month

When seven-year-old Lucia Elizabeth Dell saw that her grandfather had his eyes open in the pool, she knew something was seriously wrong and called for help.

Dell’s quick action to alert the lifeguard staff at Beban Pool on Sept. 8 helped save the life of her grandfather, Bernard Biro, and made her the youngest-ever recipient of B.C. Emergency Health Services’ Vital Link Award, presented to members of the public who are involved in saving a life through successful CPR efforts.

Dell was presented the award at a ceremony at Beban Park on Wednesday, Oct. 11. At the same ceremony, seven City of Nanaimo lifeguard staff members – Maddy Tait, Kilian Allard, Matt Coupland, Mackenzie Murgatroyd, Ethan Johnson, Nina Carroll and Keiann Nowicki – were presented with letters of commendation for successfully performing CPR and looking after family members until B.C. Ambulance Service paramedics arrived to take over during the incident.

“Lucia Dell was in the pool with her grandfather playing. While playing, her grandfather went unresponsive, face down,” said Alex Mattes, B.C. EHS paramedic supervisor for the central Island, in his presentation. “At this time, Lucia tried to rouse her grandfather. When she was unable to, she notified her mother and lifeguards that something was wrong. Lucia’s mother tried to rouse him and lifeguards jumped in the water.”

Biro was unresponsive and found to be in cardiac arrest when he was pulled from the water, so the lifeguards started CPR and also applied a shock from an automated external defibrillation unit. Paramedics arrived and continued CPR until they got a pulse back before rushing the patient to Nanaimo Regional General Hospital.

Mattes also acknowledged efforts by Nanaimo Fire Rescue and 911 call-takers and dispatchers for their roles in saving Biro’s life.

Lucia’s mother, Laura Biro, said the family had only been at the pool about 10 minutes when the incident occurred.

“Luci, she and Grandpa go to the pool often and to the lake, and she remembered that Grandpa told her that he never has his eyes open in the pool because it hurts his eyes,” Laura said. “She was diving and she came up and said, ‘Something’s wrong with Grandpa … His eyes are open. He never has his eyes open in the pool,’ and that’s immediately what alerted her to know that something was wrong.’”

READ ALSO: Nanaimo resident recognized for saving her father’s life

Bernard was also on hand to thank his granddaughter, the lifeguards and emergency responders and he hugged B.C. Ambulance paramedics Steve Sulyok and Jarrod Rousseau who revived him and rushed him to hospital.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you. You guys gave me my life back,” said Bernard, who explained that his doctor said he shouldn’t have survived long enough to get to the hospital. “But because of you guys I’m standing here right now and I cannot thank you enough for this here. Now I get more time to spend with my daughters and my grandchildren.”

Bernard said he was stabilized at NRGH and then rushed to Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria where he received triple-bypass surgery. He has recovered and the 70-year-old said he feels “fantastic.”

“I feel like a new person,” he said.

Bernard said when he returns to his home in Penticton he will have follow-up appointments to try to determine what brought on the attack.

Laura mentioned how Ethan Johnson and the other lifeguards helped comfort Lucia and her younger sister during the incident.

“Ethan had his ukulele and he sang songs for my girls and calmed them down. So important,” Laura said. “So many different roles were so important in that whole process. Just recognizing that those girls were by themselves and needed some comfort and they were right there with them and it was amazing. I’m so happy that they got acknowledged as well.”

Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog congratulated all those who helped save Bernard’s life.

“Today we celebrate the impact of a very smart young woman and a fine team of people who put their skills together and, literally, gave this family someone who was in God’s waiting room and yarded him back,” Krog said.

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Bernard Biro and granddaughter Lucia Elizabeth Dell share a moment Wednesday, Oct. 11, after Dell became the youngest person ever to receive the B.C. Emergency Health Services Vital Link Award for her role in saving Biro’s life. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Lifeguards Maddy Tait, left, Kilian Allard, Matt Coupland, Mackenzie Murgatroyd, Ethan Johnson, Nina Carroll and (not in photo) Keiann Nowicki received letters of commendation for their roles in reviving Bernard Biro after he suffered a heart attack at Beban Pool on Sept. 8. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Lucia Elizabeth Dell, 7, receives a B.C. Emergency Health Services Vital Link Award and a letter of commendation from B.C. EHS operations mangers for central Vancouver Island Nicholas Mann, left, Chris Watkins and Laura Shaw of Island Health, for her role in saving her grandfather Bernard Biro, third from left, when he suffered a cardiac arrest at Beban Pool on Sept. 8. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)

Chris Bush

About the Author: Chris Bush

As a photographer/reporter with the Nanaimo News Bulletin since 1998.
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