Discover more from Life According to D
Drenched in Drama
The Story of a Near-Death Experience, A Chilly Plunge, and Unrelenting Human Spirit
"It is only in adventure that some people succeed in knowing themselves – in finding themselves." - Andre Gide.
In last week's post, I mentioned a Mary Maxim sweater I wore to my first official sales call.
Remembering the sweater brought back a memory of my near-death experience wearing it. Today’s post is more about the sweater.
John, an avid kayaker, asked me one December morning if I wanted to go kayaking. I said, "Sure."
I love adventure.
We set the time and place to meet. North River Causeway with Charlottetown Harbour as the destination.
I dressed warmly, wearing blue jeans, heavy socks, sneakers, and my new Mary Maxim sweater with a moose design. Oh, did I say I had never kayaked before?
The air was crisp, and the sky was gray. We settled into the kayaks. Scooting ourselves across the ice and into the open water was exciting. Once off the ice and into open water, we started to paddle. The water and its dark surface were a gateway to a world untouched by light.
Five minutes later and five hundred feet from shore, I made a wrong move.
While paddling, I leaned much to one side; it was too late. Within a blink, in the cold salt water, dressed in a heavy wool sweater, I bobbed.
Ocean water freezes at a lower temperature than fresh water.
Freshwater freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Seawater freezes at about 28.4 degrees Fahrenheit because of the salt in it.
We now had more of an adventure to deal with than planned.
The tide’s current was strong and seabound, taking my empty kayak with it.
I looked at John and asked, "Now, what do I do?"
He barked, "SWIM!"
Off I went, swimming against the current for what felt like forever; a sense of calm overcame me. Then, I heard what sounded and felt like a jet engine turning off. My organs were shutting down to conserve energy.
The pain in my hands and feet was so intense. It felt like a thousand needles were driving through them.
John paddled a little before me; I asked him to stop. He did, and I swam towards him. Thinking I was trying to get onto his kayak, he back-paddled and away.
"Stop, please rub my hands. I need time to think."
All the while looking pretty worried, he rubbed my hands.
Looking around again for my kayak, I could see a faint, luminous green kayak, the kind of fluorescent green you find on plastic keychains promoting one thing or another. So, like a riderless horse heading back to the ranch, the kayak was on a solo journey out to sea.
I looked at John and shouted, "What am I doing in here? Get out of my way."
Anger and adrenaline kicked in and increased with every stroke I took toward the shore.
Getting closer to shore, we came to the ice. Saltwater ice, when forming, is different than freshwater ice. It can be slushy and not hold any weight.
John could see I couldn't get onto the ice, as the water was still over my head.
"Move,” John shouted.
Paddling hard and lifting his weight at the right moment, he got his kayak onto the ice.
He was making a path for me to follow. And I dog-paddled until my feet could touch the ocean floor.
When I could feel the solid ground under my feet, it was my turn.
"Move,” I said.
Walking towards the shore, chunks of ice fell from either side of my body.
Now, I am out of the freezing water, standing on the side of the highway. With an urgent need for heat, I noticed a pizza shop across the road.
I also noticed cars were not stopping. Once a break in the traffic revealed itself, I dashed across the road.
Coming to the building, I thought, I can’t go through the front door; I am too messy and wet.
Finding the backdoor locked, I pounded on it. At first, the staff person waved me off. He had no idea what this crazed man was doing, banging on the door. I kept knocking on the door. Finally, when he looked again, I hollered, “I fell in, I fell in!”
The door opened. I went straight for the pizza oven to get in. Opening the door and seeing a pizza, I thought, oh no, need to close the door or burn the bottom of the pizza.
Instead, I crawled underneath the oven. I was curling into a fetal position when John came running in the front door. He screamed, “Don’t let him do that; we need to keep him awake!”
A large man was waiting for his pizza and watching all this happening.
Once John had barked the order, the man put his hands on the counter and jumped over. He pulled me from beneath the oven and put me in a forward-facing bear hug. Holding me upright, he walked around the restaurant, banging my head against the faux wood-panelled wall to keep me awake.
Later that day, John told me I was in and out of consciousness at the time. When I was out, I would walk around with large eyes, looking like I would kill someone. So they kept backing away until I would crumple. I don’t remember.
The RCMP arrived; while lying on the floor, he asked me, “What is your name? Where do you live?”
I answered between my shivering and chattering teeth.
“What is your name? Where do you live? He kept asking the same questions. I answered again and again and again. Finally, on the last one, I said, I have told YOU this already!
He said, “I am trying to keep you alive.”
He asked John, “How long was he in the water?” John replies, “12 minutes.”
The ambulance arrived, and the attendants put me on a stretcher. They removed my heavy sweater with the moose on it and, with sharp scissors, started cutting off my sleeve to get the vitals.
The ambulance driver asked the RCMP officer how long I was in the water; I remember his response. “18 minutes,” I thought no, it was 12.
We arrived at the ambulatory emergency area, where several nurses were waiting. One was in charge. She asked the driver, “How long was he in the water?” The driver responded, “22 minutes,” I thought no, it was 12.
She started the commands, including “Get his clothes off!”
Late, they told me I was in and out of consciousness.
While removing my wet clothing, a nurse’s hand landed on one of my buttock cheeks. I was conscious enough to say, “Ahhhhh, that’s better!”
The head nurse, with enthusiasm, said, “he’s going to be fine; wrap him up and put him over there; the doctor will be here shortly.”
Doctor arrived. I won’t use his language, but it is fair to say it was unprofessional. He scolded me, and when he finished, I replied.
“Doctor, I expect your kind of tone and questions later today from my mother. But If you are wondering how I feel, I can tell you I feel much better than when I came in.”
He turned and walked out.
Hours later, he returned. He picked up my chart. While signing it, he said, “It wouldn’t have mattered to me if you came in a gray slab; you can go now.”
Over the next few days of recovery, I happened to do something I never did. I read the classifieds. There was a tiny ad that caught my eye.