Help was there in a heartbeat

MONICA PRYTS | Allied NewsWill Hannon, a lifeguard at the Grove City YMCA, recently helped a member who was having a medical emergency.

GROVE CITY – Ray Benedict does not remember much about the medical emergency he experienced while swimming at the Grove City YMCA.

But he does know that the actions of lifeguard Will Hannon are the reason he’s recovering well.

“I’d just like to thank him,” said Benedict, who lives in Pine Township with his wife Mary.

Around lunchtime on Aug. 5, Benedict was doing some light exercises in the deep end of the pool at the YMCA.

Hannon stood by, keeping an eye on things and Benedict, the only person in the pool. This is his fifth year working as a lifeguard for the Y, which also oversees the pool at Grove City Memorial Park.

Hannon noticed that Benedict appeared to be breathing hard. He approached Benedict, who said he was “fine.” Hannon suggested he get out of the pool to take a break.

Hannon had to help Benedict up the ramp leading out of the pool, and he was becoming disoriented, said Hannon, who lives in Grove City with his family.

Benedict sat down on a bench, then collapsed a few minutes later.

“There were a couple of times he had passed out,” said Hannon, 19, a sophomore at Grove City College, where he’s part of the swim team.

Hannon asked the staff member at the front desk to call 911, and another employee waited at the door for the ambulance. Hannon performed several rounds of CPR on Benedict as emergency crews arrived.

Benedict made it safely to the hospital, where he got a pacemaker. He’s recovering from the cardiac incident, said Karen Wendelschaefer, the YMCA aquatic director.

She has known Hannon for quite a few years; she was his swim coach at the Y, and now she’s his supervisor. She is very proud of him.

“They should be,” said Benedict, who is a new member of the Y.

Hannon followed all of the proper protocol, including the CPR and enlisting the help of his co-workers, said Wendelschaefer, who was at the park pool at the time but got called over to the Y.

“It was a full-team effort,” she said.

There are cameras in the pool area, and she’ll be using video the footage during first aid and CPR training for other staff members.

“Will was outstanding. He did everything right,” she said.

Wendelschaefer has worked at the Y for about 20 years, and this was the first time that a pool employee performed CPR on a member.

The outcome would not have been favorable if Hannon hadn’t stepped in, she said, adding that he is a humble and reliable person who is always willing to help others.

Hannon said he was able to remain calm while performing CPR, and while he was simply doing part of his job, he’s glad that he was properly trained.

“And I’m happy that he’s all right,” he said of Benedict.

Grove City Mayor Randy Riddle will be giving Hannon a citation on behalf of the borough, Wendelschafer said.

And the Guthrie Theatre, which is installing new seats, plans to dedicate a chair to Hannon for his heroic actions, said Bill Grigsby, chief financial officer and business manager of Veritas Arts and the theater.

Grigsby heard about the incident from several of his employees. The Guthrie wants to be part of the community in ways that include recognizing people like Hannon, he said.

Hannon will be able to select the seat that will feature a plaque with his name on the back. Hannon said he’s excited and surprised by the gesture.

“He acted very well in the moment from what it sounds,” Grigsby said.

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