Choking infant saved by Barnstable lifeguard at Craigville Beach

Lifeguard Jake Avery at Dowes Beach in Osterville Wednesday, one day after he saved the life of a choking infant at Craigville Beach in Centerville

CENTERVILLE – A Barnstable lifeguard saved the life of a choking 14-month-old boy Tuesday at Craigville Beach in Centerville.

Jake Avery, 19, was on duty late in the afternoon when the father of the toddler ran up to the lifeguard stand and said his son was choking and had stopped breathing.

Avery said he blew one long whistle to alert other lifeguards on the beach that an emergency was happening, jumped off the stand, and ran to aid the baby.

He immediately performed the Heimlich maneuver until a piece of fruit stuck in the child’s throat popped out and the infant began crying.

“You hold him in one arm, give him five back blows, and then you switch to the other side and do five chest compressions. I did that until the object was dislodged,” said Avery in explaining how he responded.

“It was all adrenaline and pure training. It was almost immediate that I knew what to do,” said Avery at Dowes Beach in Osterville Wednesday, where he was back on duty.

The Harwich resident, who attends Brandeis University during the school year, credited the strong training program run by the Barnstable Recreation Department.

All town lifeguards undergo ongoing training throughout the summer on how to respond to any type of emergency they may encounter at the beach. Avery said they just recently did training on how to perform CPR on an infant, training he used in real life Wednesday afternoon.

Avery has been a lifeguard for 2 years in Barnstable and plans on becoming a psychiatrist after graduation.

It wasn’t until after the emergency was over and Avery was getting ready to do some paperwork regarding the incident when he realized the significance of what he did on the beach.

“I looked over at the child and said ‘wow,’ I saved him,” said Avery. He said he was “absolutely” ready to respond to the crisis thanks to the training the town provides.

Since the choking, Avery said he remains alert and prepared for anything that comes his way.

 Tim McGrath, Barnstable’s aquatic program coordinator, said they work hard to make sure all their lifeguards are well-prepared.

“They are trained to the highest level. We have two lifeguard instructors on staff that run our drills. They do a fantastic job of preparing everyone,” said McGrath.

He said Avery jumped into action and was ready to perform. McGrath said Craigville is their busiest beach in town and requires vigilance by the lifeguards.

Recreation Program Coordinator John Gleason said their guards can face any multitude of emergencies during the day, ranging from heat stroke, to broken extremities and jelly fish stings.

The name of the family was not immediately available.
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