WATERLOO – A routine kayaking activity at Camp Belwood turned life threatening on July 2, 2018, and it was lifeguard Coral Markan Davidson who ensured a positive outcome.
The 18-year-old, currently studying French in her first year at the University of Waterloo, worked as a camp counsellor and lifeguard that summer at the YMCA’s Camp Belwood.
She recently won a commissioner’s citation for lifesaving from the OPP.
On July 2, Markan Davidson led a kayaking activity with two other first-time counsellors. There was a group of about 15 to 20 campers with them and when they got far enough out on the lake, they began to learn how to flip the boat and then get themselves back into the boat.
“[A female camper] flipped her boat and ended up hitting her head … and then her life jacket kind of undid first buckle, and so she just got really panicked and she didn’t know what was going on,” said Markan Davidson.
The camper was bobbing up and down in the water when Markan Davidson swam to her.
The lifeguard carried the camper to the boat and, with the assistance of another camper, got the girl back in the boat.
The emergency radio wasn’t working so one of the other counsellors paddled back to camp for help.
“I checked her breathing and stuff like that until the motorboat could come back out and we could transport her to the dock and wait for EMS to arrive,” Markan Davidson said.
Once on the dock Markan Davidson said the victim was coming in and out of consciousness and they were having trouble finding a pulse.
However, once the victim was transported to the hospital and checked over, she was deemed healthy to return to camp.
Markan Davidson stayed with her the whole time.
While at the camp, the lifeguard said her training kicked in.
“I knew exactly what to do,” she said. I didn’t even have to think it just kind of happened. It was kind of instinct.”
The rescue, which was her first major incident as a lifeguard, encouraged her to do more such work.
“When I returned back to school I was researching all these things and … the number of kids who drown or can’t swim and those statistics that kind of affected me to like volunteer to teach special needs children how to swim,” she said.
She also went on to work as a lifeguard at Bingeman’s water park in Kitchener this summer.
In September, Wellington County OPP announced Markan Davidson would receive the Commissioner’s Citation for Lifesaving at the Sept. 19 West Region Award Ceremony.
“Lifeguard [Markan] Davidson sprang into action relying on her training and instincts to tend to the victim, who was gasping for air,” the OPP synopsis reads. “She knew to place the young women into the recovery position, reassuring her and ensuring 911 was called.
“If it were not for Ms. [Markan] Davidson’s actions the victim may have drowned.”
However, Markan Davidson, did not find out about the award until October due to a logistical error.
“It was a really big surprise because after that happened, I had no contact with [the victim] because I was … her counsellor,” she said.
“And then it was kind of a nice thing because I know she was dealing with … some hardships in her life and obviously that was very traumatic and so I took that as everything’s okay. She’s okay.”