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Three young women honored for saving a life

Catherine Jennison, Mackenzie Hurst, and Jordan Drolet smiled after receiving various awards and words of gratitude for saving the life of Cathy Moholland on July 17 at Ellacoya. Lauren Tiner. (click for larger version)
August 04, 2010
The three young lifeguards initially responsible for saving Cathy Moholland's life at Ellacoya State Park in Gilford July 17 were honored for their heroic efforts as the victim and her husband, Paul Moholland, looked on with gratitude.

A life saving award ceremony was held on Thursday morning in the very place Moholland, of Barrington, could have potentially drowned if the girls hadn't spotted her in the shallow waters of Lake Winnipesaukee and acted as quickly as they did.

College student Catherine Jennison of Belmont, an off-duty lifeguard at the time, aided in Moholland's rescue along with college student Mackenzie Hurst of Gilford and high school senior Jordan Drolet of Barnstead, both on the clock.

Mike Houseman, New Hampshire State Parks and Recreation Department supervisor, was the first to address the girls on their noteworthy actions.

"I am very proud and happy to be here to represent the state, and to honor and thank the lifeguards for their efforts on Saturday, July 17. We have many great employees and this incident exemplifies what we are all about," said Houseman, who presented a certificate of appreciation to each lifeguard.

Gilford Town Administrator Scott Dunn then presented a certificate of recognition to the girls on behalf of the town. Gilford Fire Chief John Beland presented the recipients with an award of exemplary action.

Beland said this was the second time this year he has been able to present someone with this award for bravery during a medical emergency.

"They recognized the incident at hand Ö It's an example of how a multi-tier emergency medical system can be successful when all the pieces come together," said Beland.

It was reported that on July 17, Moholland's husband lost his wedding ring in the water during their visit at the beach. Moholland swam away from her husband to search in the shallower waters. Already seizure prone, a wave splashed her in the face, shocking her body and triggering a seizure, which caused her to fall into the water face first, almost unnoticed.

Paul Moholland himself only realized his wife had disappeared into the water when Hurst blew her whistle three times and the girls ran into the water with a flotation device to drag Moholland out.

Hurst and Drolet had noticed that Moholland hadn't surfaced from the water for a while, and after one woman screamed and another went to call 911 the girls, including Jennison on her day off, ran into with water with their adrenaline pumping and emergency training ready put into good use.

"You learn by the books and you do all this training, and when it is applied, you realize it really does work. We didn't even have to think," said Jennison. "I couldn't have stood there off duty and not done anything."

Hurst said other people in the water were about 50 feet away from Moholland, yet when the girls ran in, several beachgoers followed and helped the girls carry her out of the water. Spectators were then asked to clear the water while the lifeguards proceeded.

"We got her to shore and got a pulse," said Jennison.

Drolet said Moholland was spitting out blood at the time, and the girls realized she may be choking on her tongue or the water. They assessed that Moholland was breathing enough but not properly, so they held her on her side. They were ready with their CPR tools in hand, yet they decided against CPR or rescue breathing, since these methods could have pushed water back into her lungs.

"I can't remember the woman who saw her in the water or the one who called 911, but they should be honored too," said Jennison. "It means a lot that they (the Mohollands) could make it today."

Moholland was more than happy to see her three rescuers although she admitted it was hard to come back to the beach and face the water after the incident. She said she had taken baby steps earlier in the week and tried out her friend's pool for a bit, which made her feel somewhat more confident in the water again.

"With my husband's help, it will be a little better and a little easier," said Moholland.

This was the first time the three lifeguards faced a real life incident where they had to rescue someone from nearly drowning.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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