Inadvertently, destroying carefully built sand castles, I darted through the beach goers towards the ocean. I snatched the Rescue Buoy from my back and propelled it into the water. Legs, high like a lizard running over hot sand, straddled the incoming waves. The sounds of the beach faded and were replaced by the surge of the ocean. I gasped great lung fulls of air as every wave hit, searching all the time for the people who needed me.
“Help! ….Here!” The good Samaritan screamed out.
I had heard it, but the sun danced on the expanse of blue making me squint and I had difficulty focusing. I did catch flashes of yellow and red in the distance, another lifeguard was out here too. It was comforting to know I wasn’t alone. He pushed a rubber ring containing two small children who were out of their depth in these currents. Even I was struggling, this made me uneasy. The good Samaritan was now in need of rescuing.
Kicking my legs and gaining a moment’s height advantage over a whitecap, I scanned the swirling vista. I felt lead heavy in my bones and realized I didn’t have much time. A breaker crashed overhead and I was sucked under. My buoy floated to the top and in a daze I noted the amazing volume of white bubbles in its wake. Unseen, I touched a body and clawed out with my hands for something I could manage to hold onto. Finding an arm, I pulled them closer and got our heads above water. It was the good Samaritan, his body remained limp in my arms. Maybe there was still time?
Above, the pulsing swoosh of a helicopter became louder.
“Nearly there, must be close.” I repeated over and over.
The sea reacted like a giant serpent, twisting and throwing itself and I ingested much more water as I swam. It was strange after so long to feel several pairs of legs within my reach, until someone caught me under the arm and hauled me out. I staggered and fell face forward onto the sand.
I registered blue flashing lights and crowds gathered nearby, some helping, some just watching. The Air Ambulance had stopped a small distance away and it made a reassuring presence. At least the man would stand a chance now.
“You all right mate?” A paramedic was making his way towards me.
“Think so….the others…. are they o.k?” Exhausted, I had trouble forming the words.
“The woman and two children are. The man you saved is over there being seen to. Now let’s get you up, see if you’re all right? ”
He placed an oxygen mask over my face and I took a long deep breath; it made me cough. The pain in my lungs instantly felt better. In a trance I stared ahead and watched the paramedics attach all manner of medical paraphernalia to the man. I silently said a prayer.