Mr Hitchings saves a life
BISS Puxi Director of Sport and Assistant Headteacher, Mr Thomas Hitchings, rescued a young boy from drowning while on holiday in Guilin.
On the morning of Saturday 24th July, Mr Hitchings and his family were checking out of their hotel. They were about to head to the airport, following a lovely holiday in Guilin. The trip had been relaxing and uneventful – the perfect way to unwind after a busy academic year at BISS Puxi.
Suddenly, a guest burst into the hotel lobby, screaming for help. A child was drowning in the nearby river!
Before he could even process what was happening, Mr Hitchings’s body went into autopilot, and he sprinted out of the hotel to assist.
When he reached the river, he assessed the safety of the water before getting in. He knew that jumping into unsafe water could make a potentially tragic situation even worse.
About 40 meters away, in the middle of the river, he saw a boy floating face-down in the water. Mr Hitchings jumped in and swam as quickly as he could.
“When I reached him, he wasn’t moving, and his face and limbs were blue,” Mr Hitchings said.
His lifesaving training kicked in and he checked the boy for a pulse whilst trying to wake him. Thankfully he found a pulse, albeit a weak one, but the boy was not breathing. Mr Hitchings performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and eventually the boy regained consciousness as a fountain of water came out of his mouth.
When conscious, the disoriented boy began struggling against Mr Hitchings – a common reaction known as the instinctive drowning response. This is when the brain goes into “survival mode” causing the victim to flail his arms to keep his head above water.
“He was very distressed, and it took a lot of energy to keep us both afloat while his fight response relaxed. This fight response is what makes water rescues so dangerous and why we are taught to only enter the water as a last resort.”
Despite the challenges, Mr Hitchings swam toward the shore and reached a flotation device brought out by hotel staff members and other tourists. By the time he grabbed the rescue buoy, he was exhausted. Performing CPR while treading water and then trying to hold on to the boy while he was struggling had completely depleted his energy.
When on dry land, the boy was given additional aid before a driver from the hotel rushed him and his mother to the local hospital.
Mr Hitchings was thrilled to learn the boy is expected to make a full recovery. “I am so thankful he is doing well. Although I’m sorry he and his mother had to go through this incredibly frightening experience.”
Upon hearing of the rescue, Mr Lancaster said, “On behalf of the entire BISS Puxi family, I sincerely thank Mr Hitchings for his courageous actions in Guilin. His skill and composure in an extremely stressful situation were nothing short of amazing. Most importantly, I am so grateful that everyone involved is safe at home with their families today. Mr Hitchings is very modest about what he did for this child and family, but I am sure that I speak for us all when I say that we hold him in the highest regards for his actions.”
When asked what he hopes people will take away from this story, Mr Hitchings said, “Swimming can be a great form of exercise when you are in a safe environment with adult supervision. And knowing how to swim could someday be life-saving.” He stresses to always understand the risks before entering the water and to practice water safety at all times.