By: Dave Caspole ’94
Shannon Fitzsimmons ’19 was coming off a record breaking junior year, in which she set four school records and was a member of the Owls swim team, which had its best-ever finish at the New England competition in the spring of 2018. Last summer, on the verge of her senior season, Fitzsimmons turned what could have been a family tragedy into what appears to be yet another triumph for the Owls champion swimmer.
On July 18, 2018, the Andover native walked into the gym at which both she and her dad, Mike, work out. She discovered her father, sitting in a chair, convulsing. He was having a heart attack.
“I went into lifeguard mode. I knew exactly what to do and almost forgot that it was my father,” says Fitzsimmons, who performed CPR. “It wasn’t until the paramedics came in, and I thought, ‘How do I tell my
mom what’s going on,’ that it hit me that I didn’t know what was going to happen.”
Mike Fitzsimmons had quadruple bypass surgery and has recovered. “A lot of people told me I saved his life,” says Fitzsimmons.
In January, Fitzsimmons was honored at a Boston Celtics game by the Celtics Heros Among Us Program during a timeout in the second quarter.
She lifeguards at the Ely Pool on the Westfield State campus during the academic year and at the Burbank YMCA in Reading during the summer. She is as cool and collected during meets as she was while saving her father’s life. “Whatever she’s going to do, she commits to,” says Owls Head Coach Dave Laing. “She’s a good leader, and the other women on the team really respect her.”
Before Fitzsimmons’ father had surgery, he told her, “I’m going to make it to your swim meets this year.” After he left the hospital, Fitzsimmons spent a lot of time with him, walking their cul de sac together as he began rehab. “This year I definitely swam for him,” Fitzsimmons says of her dad. “It was a lot of pressure, knowing he would be at my meets.”
Mike Fitzsimmons says, “I looked forward to those last meets. I’ve been watching her swim since she was four or five years old.”