Mary Shampton: From Lifeguard to Life Saver

By Kaelan Doolan, Class of 2018

On a sunny day at a local swimming pool in Kettering, Ohio, Mary Shampton stood guard as people poured in to soak in the cool water under the warm summer sun.

It was already June, and in a few weeks she would be leaving home and returning to Xavier University for her junior year. But she had no idea that her actions that day would affirm her decision to choose nursing as her major—and most important—save a little boy’s life.

At the time, she was focused on her summer job as a certified lifeguard, one she’d held for four years at the Crestwood Swim Club. The pool was crowded that day. A swim meet was scheduled for later, and the pool was packed with people trying to get in their swim before the meet started. She was one of three guards at the pool, and they were stretched thin trying to keep up with all the kids splashing around.

As she caught glimpses of arms and legs amidst the spray, she heard a voice call out, “Lifeguard!” Standing at the side of the pool, she scanned the water until she saw something floating. She peered closer and realized it was a small boy face down in the water, and he wasn't moving.

 Xavier's nursing program instilled so much confidence in myself that when I had to start CPR, I didn't hesitate.

Both her lifeguard and nursing training kicked in. As another woman in the pool lifted the boy out of the water, Mary reached out and pulled him to the pavement. “Everyone was screaming and crying, ” she said.

Knowing the boy's life was in her hands, Mary focused on what she had to do to resuscitate him. She started doing compressions on his chest, then let nurse Christi Rammel take over the compressions while she gave him rescue breaths.

When he started coming around, they turned him on his side until the water gushed out of his lungs. The boy choked a few times and then was breathing again. They stayed with him until the ambulance arrived to take him to the hospital.

She soon learned the boy, whose name is Keifer, had been at the pool for only five minutes before he began to drown. He’d been so eager to get into the water that he'd jumped right in, but he gradually ventured into deeper waters until he tired and could no longer swim. His mother had started searching for him around the time Mary pulled him to safety.

Mary Shampton, right, with Christi Rammel, who helped her save Keifer.

It took awhile for Mary to realize what she'd done, and how much her Xavier education had contributed to saving the boy's life.

"Xavier's nursing program instilled so much confidence in myself that when I had to start CPR, I didn't hesitate," she says.

"I was able to call out for someone to call 911, start with those rescue breaths, start the compressions, then switch to two-person CPR without overthinking it or getting scared, and it wasn't until after Kiefer was okay and breathing and being taken away by the ambulance that I actually thought about what had just happened, or what could have happened had I not been able to drag him out of the pool or start CPR in as timely a manner as I was."

A week later, Mary was reunited with Keifer and his family when they sat down for pizza and cookies at the swim club. The reunion was sweet for Mary. On Aug. 23, the City of Kettering gave an award to her and Rammel and the woman who lifted Kiefer out of the pool.

Both the reunion and the award made her feel good about her choice of nursing as a career. It was something she'd been thinking about since she was 5 and cut her foot on a glass table. Her aunt, a nurse, helped glue the skin back into place.

“Ever since then, I just felt like I wanted to do what she did,” Mary says. Turns out, her aunt was a major influence not only on her choice of career but also on her choice of school, even going on her college visit to Xavier.

What also encouraged her was Xavier's nursing program. Other schools required that nursing applicants enroll in prerequisite classes first and seek acceptance later. Some schools didn’t even have a nursing program. At Xavier, nursing majors are admitted directly into the program as freshmen.

With graduation just a year away, Mary hopes her nursing career gives her the opportunity to help people and maybe even save more lives—like she did last summer.

“This event has made me want to work with children even more than I originally wanted to,” she says. “It also really has just given me more confidence about how I actually know what I'm doing and can actually perform CPR and save a life. As scary and unexpected as it was, it was amazing to be able to save a 4-year-old at a pool, and it is something I will never forget. There really is no better feeling than saving a life.”

Feature Image: Mary Shampton, second from right, receives an award from Kettering Fire Chief Thomas Butts for saving a boy from drowning.

Learn more about Xavier's Bachelor of Science in Nursing.