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Drowning prevented by nearby friends

Connie O'Connor

Special to the Village News

I was as close to death as I want to be before the inevitable. The quick response of my friends, Kat and Fred, saved me literally a few seconds from drowning in two feet of water on the shoreline of Oceanside.

The Easter Day surf was not particularly rough. There were many swimmers practicing for the next weekend's triathlon (April 7), but they were complaining about the pulling currents which were carrying them all out.

Surveying the swells, I selected an area with the smaller waves as I was trying out my brand new 9'8" surfboard. Yes, I am a 69 years old female. Yes, I surf and paddle board. No, I was not afraid of the water or waves that day. What fate had in store for me was a surprise to everyone.

I do not remember falling off my surfboard. Still to this day, I can hear the sound of my head hitting the hard sandy shore as I was coming in to end my wave. Face down in two feet of water, I was trying to tell my injured brain to turn over as I was fully aware that I would drown.

How long could I hold my breath? After bashing my head like a melon on the cement hard sand, how did my body or brain know to hold the breath? I had at best 30 seconds.

At this moment, I was thinking I had better say goodbye to my dear husband and wonderful children. I kept thinking if this was the way I was going to die, at least I would be in the ocean where I want my ashes eventually thrown.

Because Fred was also near me, he noticed I was not turning over. Trouble. And his quick assessment along with Kat running to help turn me over for my almost last breath, I took the deepest suck of air I could get into my lungs.

Because my head was banged, my language was impaired, but I remember trying to say to Kat, who was hauling me up the beach, yelling 9-1-1, "I drownedededed... almost....drowneded........" My worst fear was I had had a stroke because that tendency runs in my family and because not only was my speech impaired but also my vision was blurred. I feared the worst as I tried to talk, but the sounds that came out were not the same as my thoughts.

Kat's blaring screams of "call 9-1-1" over and over finally brought others to help, the paramedics were called, and I was promptly carried by the lifeguards to the paramedic vehicle waiting to take me to the hospital. Their efficiency and expertise delivered me safely to the emergency room, that diabetic old woman who almost drowned.

With half my brand new wetsuit cut off so that they could monitor me in the fire vehicle, the hospital emergency people then cut off the bottom half and wheeled me into the cat scan. I was released that evening after their cursory assessment, and the ride home had me shutting my injured eyes and covering my overly sensitive ears so that I would not throw up in the car.

Some days when my head hurts, my right eye still healing for a year, and my fatigue hits me suddenly, I realize that I was truly seconds from death, a fact that haunts me more now than when the accident happened.

My message to everyone is be aware of your surroundings because accidents happen very quickly. My insulin-related fall fortunately happened where people were watching out for each other.

The ocean can be a very dangerous place with currents, flying surfboards, kids on boogie boards, and babies in inner tubes. I consider myself experienced in dealing with the ocean, and here I was drowning in two feet of shoreline!

As you come into this fun summer season where swimming, hiking, riding bikes, surfing, and playing games are all a part of the reason we love to live, watch out for each other, keep track of each other, keep close to each other, and most of all, react when you see there is trouble, for you will never know when you will be the saved or the saver.


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