Every Second Counts
"EVERY SECOND COUNTS": ANDY AND LINDSAY DEMETROPOLIS OF LONG BEACH SHARE A HARROWING---AND SUCCESSFUL---FAMILY RESCUE STORY
Long Beach firefighter Andy DeMetropolis and his wife Lindsay, an emergency room nurse at a local Long Beach hospital, are both well familiar with the phrase "Every second counts." But its meaning came home for them hard during the afternoon of June 8, 2017.
Andy and Lindsay had invited a small group of classmates and parents to celebrate their young son Dylan's last day of school. While Andy was still at work, their oldest daughter Malia, then 2 1/2 years old, had left the gated pool area of the DeMetropolis back yard, and Lindsay had removed her "floaties."
In just a few moments, one of the other mothers spotted Malia. She had silently slipped back into the pool area and was now floating, face down, in the spa.
"I went one way around the pool, and our friend Joe Flahavan, a firefighter and paramedic, went the other way," said Lindsay. "Malia was blue, with no breathing and no pulse."
Lindsay pulled Malia out of the spa and handed her to Joe, who immediately began administering CPR "for a full two minutes," according to Lindsay.
"I've taken care of many kids before," she said. "Because it was my own kid, any knowledge went completely out the door."
Lindsay was composed enough to feel Malia's pulse return, so Joe switched to mouth-to-mouth resuscitation as the sirens of the approaching Long Beach Fire Department rescue unit 17 and fire unit 22 wailed in the distance.
Meanwhile, Andy was at work at fire station 7 when his captain told him, "We need to leave now." On the way to the hospital, Andy was told that his daughter had drowned. For both parents, the next few minutes seemed like an eternity.
In the ambulance, Malia started to regain consciousness, and in the Memorial Hospital emergency room she began to cry for her Mommy and Daddy.
Malia stayed in the hospital for three days, recovering and being monitored. While there, the DeMetropolis family received "endless support from the fire department," said Lindsay. "They covered Andy's shifts, no questions asked. Battalion chiefs came to visit. The night we came home, station 3 brought us dinner. The fire department is like a second family."
"We're very fortunate that nearby rescue unit 22 was available," said DeMetropolis. Had unit 22 been busy, the next available unit was #1, all the way across town at Ocean Boulevard and Magnolia Avenue.
Andy and Lindsay praised the heroic actions of their friend Joe, whose child is a classmate of Dylan's. "It brought us even closer to him," said Lindsay. "It was very hard for him, too."
The family also experienced the positive effects of Measure A, a 2016 Long Beach ballot initiative in which voters approved a 10-year sales tax increase to fund public safety and infrastructure improvements. Measure A went into effect last March.
"Measure A brought back one engine company so far [fire station 8 in Belmont Shore], and one paramedic rescue ambulance [rescue 12 in north Long Beach]," said DeMetropolis. "We're a very busy city when it comes to call volume---probably between 60 to 70,000 calls a year. Based on a statistic I read, we're the busiest fire department per capita, per firefighter, in the United States. We lost a lot of resources starting with budget reductions in 2008."
The restored emergency resources have taken a considerable amount of stress off of the entire fire department, and advance Life Support (ALS) response times have improved throughout the city by an average of 21 seconds per call.
The Long Beach Fire Department is grateful that its citizens have voted to improve the city's emergency services. The LBFD encourages the people of Long Beach to get their own basic emergency training through its Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program, which just won an "Outstanding CERT Initiatives" award from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The DeMetropolis family has just celebrated Malia's third birthday. She has recovered 100% from the events of last June, and has even re-entered the swimming pool, under increased supervision from Mom and Dad.
"Time is everything," said Lindsay. "We're lucky that the stars aligned for Malia.”