TIERRA VERDE — Linda Simpkins' eyes were fixed on something floating in the water 30 or 40 feet away. Then a bystander scooped it out of the water.
It was a small child. A small, limp child.
Simpkins' feet were already moving. "I was screaming 'Do CPR! Do CPR!' " she said. "I felt like it took me forever to run through that water."
His name was Jordan Guyer, age 3. His rescuers laid him down on the sand of Fort De Soto Park's North Beach.
He had no pulse. He wasn't breathing. He was cyanotic — his deoxygenated blood changing color, turning him purple.
Simpkins tilted Jordan's head back, pinched his nose and covered his mouth with hers.
She breathed into him once, then again.
Still nothing. Three decades as a nurse led her to make this grim assessment: "If a child looks dead," she said, "he is dead."
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Simpkins, 47, teaches advanced cardiac life support at Marion General Hospital in Indiana. Before that she worked 22 years at Lakeland Regional Hospital.
The most important lesson she teaches doesn't involve the defibrillator or which drugs to administer. "Sometimes what's going to save a patient isn't the medicine or all that fancy equipment," she said. "It's CPR."
She tried to save a life using CPR once before 20 years ago. Her mother-in-law was having a yard sale when a neighbor went into cardiac arrest. He didn't survive.
Family and friends brought her back to Florida for a long visit this month. On Sunday, she was at Fort De Soto Park, hanging out with everyone.
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Simpkins kept at the CPR. A minute later, Jordan threw up. He started coughing. He had a pulse.
But Simpkins didn't stop breathing air into his lungs.
It was critical, she said, to keep oxygen going to his heart, lungs and brain. "You want to give them the best chance at survival and recovery," she said.
Soon lifeguards arrived with oxygen. Then the paramedics arrived. A helicopter landed to take Jordan to the hospital.
The boy's parents, Richard Guyer and Tamara Ziegler of Tampa say Jordan was taken off the ventilator Sunday evening. The next morning, he was his old self.
Guyer, 25, said he knows Simpkins saved his son's life. "Yes, she did," he said, "and I thank her for that."
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About 67 percent of drownings in St. Petersburg happen in home pools, according to St. Petersburg Fire Rescue paramedic Patrick Vines. The rest happen in open water, in ponds, canals or the gulf.
No matter the scenario, there is no substitute for supervision.
"The closer you keep them to you," Vines said of children and water, "the better off you are."
Simpkins and bystander Ken Burrows, who said he plucked Jordan out of the surf, said the boy appeared to be unattended.
It's a charge Jordan's father denies. Guyer said he was momentarily distracted while chasing after Jordan's 1-year-old sister, Alexis. He knows he and Jordan's mother have been harshly criticized by online commentators at Tampabay.com, the St. Petersburg Times' Web site.
"Whoever's speaking negative, apparently this has never happened to them," Guyer said, "and I hope it doesn't happen to them. I hope they never have to go through what we went through."
Times researcher Caryn Baird and writers David DeCamp and Andy Boyle contributed to this report. Reach Jamal Thalji at email@example.com or (727) 893-8472.