Laura Metro was returning from a run during a summer vacation at the Delaware shore when her daughter, Maison, made an announcement straight from a parent’s nightmare: Maison had been playing by the pool with her 3-year-old brother, Clay, as family friends supervised them, when he slipped under the water.
“I think Clay died,” the 6-year-old said.
Metro and her husband, Matt, sprinted to the side of the pool, where Clay had been placed after he was pulled from the pool. He was lifeless and blue.
A family friend began applying the familiar chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth breathing that are hallmarks of cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
As Clay recovered, his physicians told Metro that the bystander CPR probably saved her son’s life. Remarkably, the man who performed CPR on Clay said he had never had training and was only mimicking what he had seen on television.
Since that day six years ago, Metro has made it a personal crusade to help parents, caregivers and others learn how to perform CPR. She hosts what she calls “CPR parties” (“like Tupperware parties,” she said) to underscore the ease and importance of learning how to save a life.
“It’s just such an easy format — we replace the shopping with a certified instructor-trainer of CPR to do an hour, or an hour and a half, awareness course, and boom, you’re done,” said Metro, who lives in Potomac and created an organization she fittingly named CPR Party. “People are loving it.”
By her estimate, Metro, 42, a freelance marketing consultant who funds the effort out of her own pocket and with donations, has helped more than a thousand people in Maryland, Virginia and the District learn how to properly perform CPR. Through Metro’s partnership with Rescue One Training for Life, a local EMS and safety training organization, instructors teach people CPR, how to perform the Heimlich maneuver on children and adults, as well as how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED) — a computerized medical device that can check a person’s heart rhythm and shock it if needed.
Her goal, she says, is free CPR lessons for all Americans (certification courses can cost about $100 per person), which she sees as crucial when it comes to saving the lives of young people. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is second only to birth defects as the leading cause of the death for children age 4 and younger; overall, drowning is the nation’s fifth-leading cause of unintentional injury deaths.
“This is just insanity — to see how many kids are passing away and the families are just destroyed. I mean, you can’t imagine,” she said. “We need to do more.”
Metro noted that Texas tallied 107 child-drowning deaths last year. And in the D.C. metro area, at least five children — including a 2-year-old boy who was pulled from a Montgomery County lake; a 23-month-old boy who was found in a pool at a Northeast Washington day-care; 2-year-old twin siblings who were discovered in a family pool in Loudoun County, Va.; and a 7-year-old girl who was pulled from a backyard pool in Prince George’s County, Md., during a family function — have drowned in the past several weeks.
Spurred by those stories, Metro presses on.
“People don’t want to talk about kids dying — people just blame the person that’s there,” she said.
Metro said her son’s near-drowning gave her a purpose.
“This is my job now,” she said, recalling the helplessness that she felt as her son was being revived. “I was supposed to lend a voice to this and help elevate this cause, and be a part of this and help others to not experience what we did. Clay lived, and it was a living hell.
“That level of emotional pain and fear and desperation — you wouldn’t wish it on your worst enemy in the entire world. It’s really easy to learn CPR and empower yourself with this lifesaving skill.”
Brian Frankel, assistant fire chief for Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department, said Metro’s CPR parties spread the word about CPR and AEDs in the region, and “the more people we can get involved in education and teaching, then the greater reach we have in the region and the more people we get trained.”
American Heart Association statistics say that nearly 90 percent of people who suffer an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest die. But CPR performed in the first few minutes can double or triple a person’s chance of survival.
Metro carries that message to her training parties.
At one recent gathering in Bethesda, Metro greeted a group of about 20 moms and told the story of Clay’s near-drowning. While the group did 100 to 120 chest compressions a minute on CPR dummies, or 30 compressions and two breaths, Metro took photos with her phone and streamed the scene on Facebook Live.
Nimet DuFour, a 43-year-old Bethesda mom of three boys, said she has seen other people perform CPR before, but she had never tried it herself, until the party.
“You always hope you can react and do something if needed,” she said. “The more you know, the more likely you are to help somebody.”
Metro said her goal is to one day make the parties free. For now, she asks for a $15 donation per person for a party of 20 to help pay instructors.
And in some ways, life is so much different than it was six years ago. Clay, who was taking swim lessons at the time of the near-drowning, is now 9 and a member of a swim team.
The first time he swam in a meet, Metro said she and a few other moms were bawling on the side of the pool watching his “full circle” moment. One weekend this month, Clay captured third place at a meet.
He even knows how to do CPR, but that doesn’t stop Metro from her evening ritual.
“I go in his room every night no matter what, and I listen to him breathe,” she said. “I listen to him breathe because he wasn’t breathing.
“I just hear his lungs go up and down for just a minute.”