August 13, 2020

Student’s quick actions, expertise help save life

By Denise Buhrmester


Jennifer Pope Baker credits Hayden White, a rising junior majoring in athletic training at Purdue University, with saving the life of her 20-year-old daughter, Catherine Baker.

White and the younger Baker, both from Carmel, Indiana, were working as lifeguards at the same Carmel pool on a hot day in late July. “At the start of a break that signals adult swim, Catherine came down from her lifeguard stand and immediately passed out. Hayden, who had just arrived for his shift, recognized instantly that she was in the throes of a heat stroke and took immediate action,” says mom Baker, who was at the pool with her husband when the incident happened. “Catherine couldn’t move any part of her body, and she couldn’t feel it when we touched her.”

White kept focus on Catherine Baker and maintained control of the situation until emergency medics arrived. He shared with them his observations and explained what actions he had taken. White then helped transfer Baker onto a body board in preparation for an ambulance ride to the emergency room. 

Two recently retired trauma-room nurses happened to be at the pool and observed White attending to Baker. Later, they stated that they had never observed a lifeguard so well prepared for an emergency and that they wouldn’t have done anything differently. Both even offered to be a job reference for White in the future. 

“Hayden’s calm command of the situation allowed my husband and me to just be parents during a frightening circumstance and to not have to worry about what to do,” mom Baker says. “Others thought Catherine had just fallen — they weren’t attuned to the real danger she was in. Without Hayden’s quick assessment of the situation, we may have had a very different outcome.”

“Our lifeguard training does not cover potential dangers related to heat,” White says. “I am grateful for my Purdue training because it enabled me to recognize the signs of heat stroke and how to respond. I also knew it was imperative to get the EMTs on the scene immediately.”

Tim Gavin, professor and head of the Department of Health and Kinesiology, agrees with White that Purdue’s athletic training program is second to none. But to White’s credit, Gavin says, “Being able to think and act under pressure is the result of Hayden’s dedication to his studies and his professionalism. We are fortunate to attract students like him to our program. His actions at the pool that day make us proud.”

While no one in her family is a Boilermaker, Jennifer Baker says, “We will forever be indebted to a high-quality Purdue education. Words don’t have quite enough power to share our gratitude to Hayden for saving Catherine’s life.”


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