Madeleine StobbsGODFREY - Joseph Whetzel and his family had a life-saving experience at Summers Port Swim Club in Godfrey on July 20 and it will forever change their lives.

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Joseph Whetzel, a 12-year-old seventh-grader, dove from the dive block and rather than proceed out and up, he went head down to the bottom of the pool. Joseph’s mother, Kris, said her son came out of the pool screaming in dire pain and saying his neck hurt.

Because of an aware swim coach and several swimmers and lifeguards, Joseph has some serious fractures, but ultimately he will be all right, his mom said.

“They were practicing starts for the Sunday meet when it happened,” Kris said. “His coach got him to quit flailing about and did an immobilization technique to hold the neck back. They also got his head and neck in blocks and got him safely out of the water. Joseph has a C6 vertical vertebrae compression stress fracture and fractures to the T1 and T2 vertebrae and a concussion."

The lead guards on the Whetzel rescue were Red Cross Water Safety Instructor Madeleine Stobbs, also a noted AHS/Tidalwaves/Summers Port swimmer, Cole Akal, who is bound for Missouri University of Science and Tech. Others were Grace Stobbs, Mallory Keay, Patrick Moehn, Isabel Borman and Michaela Lucas. The youth were honored at Tuesday night's Godfrey Village Board meeting.

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Madeleine Stobbs said she was very proud of how the group worked together during the Whetzel rescue.

"As lifeguards, it is so important to always be aware because you can be thrown with a life-or-death situation within seconds and have to be ready to react," she said. "Everyone understood the importance of acting fast and worked super well together as a team. It was an awesome feeling getting the news that our hard work has paid off and Joseph is going to be OK!"

Kris said the Summers Port coach, the swimmers and lifeguards have made a huge, huge difference to the rest of the family’s lives by what they did in such a quick amount of time.

“I am convinced God put the right people in at the right time for my son between the lifeguard, the staff and the swim coach,” Kris said. “They all played an integral part in making sure there was not further damage to his neck and back. I don’t know if they realize how proud we are of all of them and their quick actions. Because of these people, Joseph should be able to make a full recovery.”

“We just had a follow-up at neurosurgery. He wears a neck brace for stability. He has no physical activity right now. He also runs cross country for Roxana, but he will have to sit out this fall.”

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