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CPR saved boy, 2, who nearly drowned in Indian Rocks Beach pool

INDIAN ROCKS BEACH — It's been more than 10 years since Nick Watson became certified in CPR, and he hasn't exactly had much practice since then.

In fact, since the class he took in high school, he's never performed CPR. Not on a human being or a dummy. Not once.

"If you'd have asked me an hour before it happened if I knew CPR," said Watson, a 29-year-old landscaper from Largo, "I would have said that I'd forgotten everything."

But when 2-year-old Scotty Johnston was plucked from the pool at Jimmy Guana's on Sunday night, his face was so blue it looked "like someone pulled him out of a freezer," Watson said. And everything he learned in CPR training came rushing back.

Tilt the head back and open the airway. Breathe little puffs of air into the lungs. Perform chest compressions — not too soft, not too hard. Give the child a chance at staying alive before the paramedics arrive, he thought.

"I was in my own little world while I was doing it," Watson said. "I didn't think. I just acted."

Much to the relief of Scotty's parents, Amanda and Scott Johnston.

Watson was able to revive Scotty before paramedics arrived. The child was then airlifted to All Children's Hospital, where he made a full recovery. He is now back home in Clearwater.

The near-drowning occurred just after 9 p.m. at the Holiday Inn on Second Street, also home to Jimmy Guana's restaurant. The pool is open to guests of the hotel and restaurant.

The place was packed, and at least 30 adults and children were bobbing around in the swimming pool, Watson recalled.

Amanda, 34, and Scott Johnston, 40, had come for dinner and some swimming with a group of relatives and friends. When it was time to head home, they took Scotty and their 4-year-old daughter out of the pool and went to pack their bags.

Scotty was standing right behind them. But as his parents turned their backs, he toddled back to the pool, pulled off his inflatable arm floaties and jumped in — all without anyone noticing him.

A few moments later — no one knows how long he was submerged — Scotty's cousin, Sonja Hoxha, 13, saw the child facedown in the water. She grabbed him and pulled him out. Sonja screamed for help, and Amanda turned around to see her son in her niece's arms.

"His lips were blue," Amanda Johnston recalled. "I said, 'Oh, my God, my baby's going to die.' "

Other people screamed. Someone called 911.

Watson spotted the unconscious child and his hysterical parents, who he had just met earlier that evening. Then, something clicked in his brain.

"He said, 'It's been a while, but I know CPR,' " Amanda Johnston said. "He just jumped on in there, and I wasn't going to stop him."

When Watson started boating in high school, his parents gave him an ultimatum: If you want to go out on the boat without your parents, you need to learn CPR. No exceptions.

He took the course to placate them. At that time, he said, he thought it was a "dumb class."

After the second round of compressions, Watson said, Scotty spit up about half a cup of water. After the third round, he erupted in coughs and started to cry. Paramedics arrived and whisked the child away.

At that point, Watson became so frightened that he started to shake and sob, he said. Even though Scotty had started to cough, Watson wasn't sure the child would be okay.

He feared the CPR hadn't done anything, or had maybe even made things worse.

But Scotty recovered and received the all clear from doctors early Monday. Amanda Johnston called Watson at 5 a.m. to tell him the good news.

Now that her baby is safe and back home, Amanda Johnston said she's vowed to do two things.

First, she and her husband will be taking Watson out to dinner.

After that, she's signing up for a CPR class.

Martine Powers can be reached at mpowers@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4224. Danny Valentine can be reached at (813) 226-3386 or dvalentine@sptimes.com.

CPR saved boy, 2, who nearly drowned in Indian Rocks Beach pool 07/12/10 [Last modified: Monday, July 12, 2010 10:54pm]
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