NEW BERLIN - The 5-year-old boy was purple and his limbs were limp as a lifesaver pulled him from a Princeton Club swimming pool Sunday afternoon.
In a fortunate turn of fate, two veteran nurses were on hand to revive the youngster. They are thankful their skills saved a life, but shaken they had to use them.
"I saw him face down at the bottom of the pool," said Stacey Sparacino, of Franklin, who was at the Princeton Club with her husband and their boys, 10 and 13. The water was almost up to her chest when she reached down and pulled the child to the surface.
"I pulled him out of the water," said Sparacino who choked up a bit remembering how blue the boy was because he was not breathing. A registered nurse for more than 20 years, Sparacino knew what that meant. Oxygen was not getting to his brain. She knew what she had to do.
Sparacino began CPR, breathing life-giving air into the child and pumping his chest to get his blood going, again.
New Berlin Fire Department authorities will not release the names of the boy or his family.
The scene at the pool was surreal to those who stood mesmerized as Sparacino fought to revive the youngster.
"It was an unbelievable thing to see," said John Sparacino, Stacey's husband. "He was as blue as blue could be. She had to really work on him for a while. I started to think he wouldn't make it."
Not far away was another registered nurse, Debra Miller of Muskego who heard all the commotion. She left the swimming pool and joined Sparacino.
Miller, 22 years as an emergency room nurse, took over the rescue breathing while Sparacino kept pumping the boy's chest.
Suddenly, he coughed up a huge amount of water, Sparacino said.
The rescuers knew the boy had turned a corner. The same thought came into both of their minds.
"Praise God," Miller remembers thinking. "I'm a mother, and I just can't imagine," she said.
"My first thought was thank you, God," Sparacino said.
Andrew Haugen, president Princeton Clubs, said in a statement: "We are grateful for the members, staff and paramedics who helped in this rescue, they are all heroes"
Both are astonished that two nurses would be right there to save the child.
"What are the chances?" said Miller. Not only that, she never comes to the pool on Sundays and if she had put her music on while she swam laps, she would never have been aware of the boy's plight.
Similarly, Sparacino, just happened to leave the whirlpool to cool off in the current pool.
When the boy started to cough, his two rescuers rolled him onto his side to make it easier for him to get rid of the water in his lungs.
"He coughed like crazy," Sparacino said.
By the time paramedics and police arrived at the Princeton Club, 14999 W. Beloit Road, about 2:30 p.m., the little guy was awake and talking.
They saved him
Fire Department Lieutenant Ross Gscheidmeier credited the pair with saving the boy's life.
"His life was saved by the nurses, in my opinion," he said.
All that was left for paramedics to do was to take the child to Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, he said. The boy was said to be doing well there as of Monday morning.
Paramedics believe the boy had slipped off a flotation device and into the water, Gscheidmeier said. The child was in an oval pool that creates a current for people to walk against for exercise.
It's common practice to open the pool up for youngsters to ride flotation devices around the pool, Sparacino said.
Miller said she understands this was the boy's first time at the Princeton Club. He was there with his mom and dad and a sibling. All were gathered around during those dark, intense moments of CPR.
Hard even for pros
Sparacino, an employee at Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare – St. Francis, has applied CPR to many a patient on the cardiac floor where she works. But she has never had to do it to a child.
It was heart-wrenching, she said.
"I'm just so thankful to God that this wasn't his time," she said.
Miller said she plans to sign her children up to learn CPR. If ever there was an example of why knowing CPR is important, this is it, she said. Miller works at St. Luke's Medical Center.
Both have been nominated by the New Berlin Police Department for Citizen Lifesaving Awards.
Even though the New Berlin paramedics walk into all kinds of painful situations, this call was a tough one for them, too.
"It was an emotional call, especially for us with children," said Gscheidmeier
"It was a very happy ending," he said. "What a blessing that he's OK."