Heroic Teen Asked to Pay

Ambulance took the teen to the hospital as a precaution

By Ivanna Hampton
|  Wednesday, Aug 25, 2010  |  Updated 3:03 PM CDT
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No good deed goes unpunished.

That's the lesson a Zion teen learned after he saved a drowning boy and then, after he accompanied the victim to the hospital, was charged for medical care that he didn't want or need.

Here's how it went down: Trevor Hall, 17, and his family went swimming at Silver Lake in Kenosha, Wisconsin Monday. Shortly after arriving on the beach, the teen heard calls for help about five to 10 feet from where he was, family members said.  

Hall swam over to the area of disturbance, dived under the water, and pulled up an unconscious 14-year-old boy.

Once the victim, Aaron Puente, was in shallow enough water, Hall's cousin, Nicole Bollinger, administered chest compressions and resuscitated him.

The lifeguard on duty was wearing headphones at the time, Bollinger said. He didn't notice the screams for help until Hall was swimming back to shore with the boy. The the lifeguard called for emergency personnel.

"He did what the lifeguard should have done - Trevor saved the boy," Bollinger said.

Meanwhile, Kenosha County suspended - and now reinstated - the lifeguard while it investigated the incident. Using an electronic device violates lifeguard policy in Kenosha.

So far, so good. But this is where the feel-good story takes a turn for the bureaucratically bizarre.

During the rescue, Hall swallowed some water and paramedics insisted he go to the Aurora medical Center in Kenosha as a precaution, said Sgt. Gil Benn of the Kenosha County Sheriff's department.

The hospital performed several tests including blood work and chest X-rays. The next day the hospital informed Bollinger, who is Hall's guardian, she would owe $1,219 for the tests and close to $700 for the ambulance ride. 

The single mother wants Kenosha County to foot the bill for all the medial expenses, she said.

"Why is it my insurance’s problem to take care of this when we did something good," she said during a phone interview.  "It wasn’t his fault.  In my opinion it’s the lifeguard’s fault and they need to pay."

A spokeswoman for the Kenosha county Executive Office, who is handling all media inquiries, said the county has finished its investigation and found that the lifeguard on duty acted appropriately.

"Their contribution with local law enforcement and lifesaving personnel complied with the responsibilities expected of a guard on duty," said Jennie Tunkieicz, spokeswoman for Kenosha County Executive Office. "None of the life guards on duty were distracted by electronic as was reported."

John Ludie, the general manager of park operations for Kenosha County, told a local paper Monday that since the victim was swimming outside the designated swimming area, the lifeguard isn't required to enter the water for a rescue.

“Once you go outside of that, it’s the lifeguard’s call” Ludie told the Kenosha News. “The right thing to do is go in the water, but that could put your lifeguard in danger. It’s that much more distance for the lifeguard to pull someone in.”

Bollinger said she spoke with Puente's mother who offered more than just gratitude.

"She offered us money, but it's not her fault," Bollinger said.  "In my opinion it's the lifeguard's fault and they need to pay.

The hospital says it will wait until Bollinger, who is insured, enrolls Hall, who is currently uninsured, in Illinois' children health care program before sending its bill. Bollinger said she is working to get Hall enrolled now.

Tunkieicz encouraged Bollinger to fill out the proper paperwork with the county if she feels the county should pay her medical bills.

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