The best part of the worst day

Saturday, June 8, was a day the Pauley family of Morgantown will likely never forget and a day first responders hope to remember. 

A sunny day at Krepps Pool, quickly took a scary turn when 11-year-old Jackson Pauley experienced a seizure and nearly drowned. 

Thanks to the quick actions of BOPARC lifeguards and response from Morgantown Fire Department and Monongalia EMS, the Pauley family remains whole. 

On Thursday morning at Krepps Park, Jackson and the Pauley family got a chance to reunite with all of the heroes that saved his life that day – and he got to officially meet them. 

Jackson offered few words, but his family expressed their gratitude. 

“We are forever grateful,” father Jason Pauley said to his son’s rescuers. “Nothing will ever truly show how we feel, and this has been obviously life-changing for us, but it’s a traumatic event that ended in a wonderful story, so we’re very pleased.” 

Pauley said the lifeguards, EMT’s and firefighters are never recognized enough for what they do. 

“You did what you’re trained to do, and you did it with punctuality,” he said. “In addition to that, just the overwhelming support of everyone being here today means a lot to us. Thank all of you, from the bottom of our hearts.” 

Getting to officially meet Jackson after saving his life provided some closure for the first responders as well. 

“I think this team is really excited to be the best part of your worst day and we get to celebrate that today,” said Forest Weyen, Monongalia EMS director. “We don’t get opportunities like this to celebrate such a fantastic outcome.”  

Weyen said he thinks the positive outcome was, in part, due to having a system in place that worked as it should. 

“It started off with the true heroes, the folks at BOPARC,” he said of the lifeguards on duty that day. “The training and expertise that they had to recognize what was going on. 

“Morgantown Fire and Mon EMS, the collaborative partnership and the way we come together to serve the community is fantastic and it really goes to show that when all these things come together, when systems work, and all the pieces that are there fall into place, really good things happen. I think that’s really amazing, and we need to celebrate that.” 

Paramedic Savanah Wolfe, who was one of the Mon EMS responders the day of Jackson’s incident, said despite facing difficult situations like this, their training often takes over. 

“Oftentimes we fall back on what we’re taught,” she said, “so I think just a lot of good training from this entire group, our whole agency and Morgantown Fire.” 

All of that training really pays off when they know the ending is a happy one. 

“I think it’s moments like this that keep us motivated to go back to work each day,” said Capt. Ian Lympany of Mon EMS.  “We go call to call every day and oftentimes we don’t get to see what the patient’s outcome is – we focus on transfer and care to the hospital then get the next call and keep going. So, it motivates us to come back when we see outcomes like this.” 

The Morgantown firefighters who responded that day were also relieved to hear of Jackson’s recovery. 

“It’s a great feeling to have this type of outcome,” said Lt. Jayson Nicewarner of MFD. “A lot of times we don’t have an outcome like this, so a positive outcome is great for us.” 

Nicewarner said firefighters often respond to medical emergencies alongside Mon EMS.  

“We’re all first responders. Maybe 15-20 of us are EMT’s and we have two or three paramedics in the department,” he said. “So, we’re very active with EMS and it’s fortunate we can be the first ones on scene sometimes and make a difference in that way.” 

Nicewarner said it was really the BOPARC lifeguards that saved the day.  

“We’re doing our job and we’re doing what we’re trained to do, but in my eyes the real heroes in this situation were the lifeguards, they fell back on their training and their CPR – they’re the ones that made a huge difference.” 

The lifeguards involved in Jackson’s rescue didn’t wish to comment but said while it was a scary situation, they are doing well. 

A press release from BOPARC said the incident “brought our community together in an incredible show of strength and support. 

“Our heartfelt thanks go out to the EMS crews, firefighters, Morgantown Police Department officers, BOPARC lifeguards, nurses, doctors and others who assisted that day and/or provided words of encouragement since. This event has truly shown the remarkable spirit of the greater Morgantown community.” 

BOPARC thanked the Pauley family, WVU Medicine, WVU Football, Ellie Mental Health, the City of Morgantown, MFD, and members of the community “for your recognition of our amazing group of young adult lifeguards who provided an exemplary response and execution of training that helped save a life.”