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Glen Oaks heroes honored

City Councilman Mark Weprin (c.) honors lifeguard Emily Harms (r.) and retired NYPD Sgt. Chris Russo for coming to the aid of an 11-year-old boy, who suffered a seizure at the Royal Ranch pool. Photo by Christina Santucci
TimesLedger Newspapers

Lifeguard and life saver Emily Harms said she returns to Glen Oaks every year so she can watch over the Royal Ranch pool, but never in her six summers working there has she been tested with such urgency.

Harms helped save an 11-year-old boy while working the community pool on Independence Day after he was pulled out of the 3-foot-deep water by his mother, unable to breathe after suffering a seizure. With some help from retired NYPD Sgt. Chris Russo, Harms helped save the boy’s life by performing CPR until he could breathe on his own.

The boy was taken to nearby Long Island Jewish Medical Center and made a full recovery.

City Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) honored both Harms and Russo last Thursday with Council citations, recognizing them for their heroic performance in saving the boy’s life.

“I applaud Emily Harms and Sgt. Chris Russo for their quick thinking and for ultimately saving a young boy’s life,” Weprin said. “These are the local heroes who help keep our community safe.”

Harms, 21, said she was working pool side on paperwork around 1:15 p.m. when she heard a commotion punctuated by the blow of a lifeguard’s whistle. When she looked up, she said she saw the boy being pulled out of the water.

“He was completely blue,” Harms said. “I ran over there and did CPR until the EMTs arrived.”

Harms, who lives in Bellerose and studies elementary and special education at Providence College in Rhode Island, said it was the first time she had to perform such a major rescue aside from the more common bumps, bruises and scrapes.

Russo, who was steps away, heard someone yelling to call the police when he jumped in to help. He said he helped hold the boy in position while Harms performed CPR.

“That is something you are always prepared for,” Harms said. “It came as second nature when it was time to help someone.”

Harms said the boy started to throw up, so she and Russo held him on his side until they could continue watching over him until authorities arrived.

Russo, 53, who retired from the NYPD nine years ago, said his experience as a sergeant helped him spring into action.

“Instincts just took over,” Russo said. “I’ve been in similar situations before so I knew I had to help.”

As Harms and Russo were honored, a group of pool visitors gathered outside the water to snap pictures and show thanks to the local heroes, cheering for their efforts. Before her next shift, Harms was followed to her lifeguard watchtower by a crowd of young swimmers, anxious to chat before jumping into the water.

“For once, it is safe to be in Harms’ way,” Weprin said after presenting both Harms and Russo with the citations.

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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