A good police officer is never off duty — just ask Sgt. Cindy Guerra, whose fast instincts and emergency training helped save the life of a 12-year-old boy.
A Fast and Fearless Leap into Action
On Saturday, July 16, Guerra — a Chicago police sergeant — was attending a graduation party at her cousin’s house with several other party guests. Friends and family members were grilling food, listening to music, and swimming in the pool.
At about 6 p.m., a boy named Cortez slid down the slide into the pool and sank to the bottom. His sister couldn’t pull him to the surface, so she raced to the nearby group of adults — where Guerra was sitting — for help.
Instinctively, Guerra bolted to save the boy. She dove in, fully clothed, and grabbed Cortez from the bottom of the 12-foot-deep pool.
Guerra brought Cortez to the surface and yelled for someone to pull him out of the water. Two other party guests — one of whom was also an off-duty police officer — got Cortez safely on land, and then onto his back. Guerra quickly got herself out of the pool and started performing CPR.
“I was calm, tunnel vision had set in, and all I could think of was reviving him because he wasn’t breathing,” Guerra said.
No Breath, No Pulse
Cortez wasn’t breathing, and he had no pulse. But Guerra continued performing CPR until she resuscitated the boy. The paramedics showed up in less than five minutes, but by that time Cortez was conscious and breathing on his own again.
Orland Fire Protection District Battalion Chief Daniel Smith told the Chicago Tribune that he credits Guerra for “stepping up and taking action and saving this boy’s life.”
Adds Guerra, “I’ve been a police officer for 24 years, and you just react instinctively. That’s what first responders do, day in and day out. You are never off duty — it’s ingrained in our personality, I believe.”
CPR Training and Proper Drowning Response
A longtime veteran of the Chicago Police Department, Guerra works in the department’s Office of News Affairs. Though her experience reacting quickly and calmly during emergency situations aided her rescue efforts, Guerra’s training as a former lifeguard also helped. Without her knowledge of CPR and drowning response techniques, the outcome of that day might have been very different.
Guerra’s advice for anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation is to stay calm and call 9-1-1. She also says basic emergency instruction is necessary for anyone, even those who aren’t parents or caretakers.
The Chicago PD offers a CPR class through its Training Academy, and there are plenty of CPR classes available elsewhere as well. The American Red Cross, for instance, offers accredited training courses.
If you have been trained in CPR and are faced with a situation where someone nearby ceases breathing, remember to follow the C-A-B guidelines recommended by the Mayo Clinic.
- C: Compressions. Push your body weight into the victim’s chest at a rate of 100 compressions a minute.
- A: Airway. After 30 compressions, clear the victim’s airways by tilting their head back and lifting their chin up.
- B: Breathing. Give two one-second rescue breaths by performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
If you are untrained in CPR, you should perform only the chest compression portion of the process, unless the 9-1-1 dispatcher instructs you otherwise.
Whether you’re trained or untrained in CPR, Guerra’s advice stands: keeping a level head and calling 9-1-1 should be the first priority when someone stops breathing.
Water Safety Protocols
Guerra also recommends that parents make sure their kids know how to swim and practice adequate water safety. Those simple steps can go a long way in preventing the need for emergency response or CPR.
Though the exact rules and restrictions you place on pool use will vary based on the ages and skill levels of the swimmers, three main rules should always be followed.
- Never swim alone. Swimmers should never be alone in a pool. If your child has a buddy with them while they’re swimming, that second party can easily run for help in the event of an emergency, as Cortez’s sister did.
- Swim with supervision. Children should never swim without someone actively supervising the pool. If even just one adult is monitoring young swimmers at all times, they can take action if something goes awry.
- Heed warning signs. “Don’t dive” and “No swimming” signs should be taken seriously. Kids should understand the potential dangers of not obeying those warnings.
Heroic Humility and Good Timing
Guerra’s lifesaving efforts that day were nothing short of heroic, but she’s been remarkably humble in her responses about the incident.
“I’m just happy I was there. It was the right place at the right time. And I was happy I was able to help this boy,” Guerra told ABC 7.