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April 12, 2021

Lifeguards save Pottsville man from paraplegia

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Pottsville architect Gerard Bisshop, who is making a steady recovery thanks to fast-thinking ALS lifeguards. Photo supplied
Pottsville architect Gerard Bisshop, who is making a steady recovery thanks to fast-thinking ALS lifeguards. Photo supplied

Pottsville architect Gerard Bisshop never dreamt of becoming a poster boy for the ALS lifeguard service – that is until he got into serious trouble in the surf during the holidays.

He is recuperating at home wearing a neck brace for the three months but is relieved things didn’t turn out a lot worse.

Gerard credits the quick thinking lifeguards at Pottsville not only for rescuing him from the surf, but also for helping prevent him becoming quadriplegic.

On Saturday January 17 Gerard got into difficulty after injuring his neck in the surf.

Around 11:30am lifeguards Fletcher Kenny, Paul Piccini and Ryan Rigney noticed him in trouble and worked together to get him to safety without compromising his neck any further.

‘One of the lifesavers did a great job holding my head in his hands the entire time, to as make sure there was no more movement. ‘I am sure that would have been very difficult,’ Gerard said

He added the care and attention didn’t end once they go to dry land.

They even took the care to bring their beach shelter to protect me from the sun,’ Gerard said.

Later scans at the hospital revealed that Gerard had suffered significant neck injuries.

After CAT scans and treatment at the Tweed and Southport hospitals, he was released the following day with a neck brace.

‘The neurosurgeon was amazed that with so much damage I did not have more symptoms, and that I could easily have left hospital as a quadriplegic or in a halo brace with screws into my skull,’ Gerard said.

The prompt actions of the lifeguards highlight the importance of knowing the correct first aid procedures for treating suspected neck and spinal injuries.

Australian Lifeguard Service coordinator Brent Manieri has urged beachgoers to be vigilant of potential hazards such as shallow water and sandbars.

‘We have had multiple incidents recently where people have experienced neck and spinal injuries while surfing and swimming.

‘Lifeguards are fully trained to deal with these situations, and we are delighted with the care and expertise that was delivered to the patient to achieve a positive outcome,’ Mr Manieri said.

Gerard praised the professionalism and efforts of everyone involved in his rescue and subsequent medical care. He is currently recuperating at home and is expected to make a full recovery.

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