Was all I heard. That’s all it took for me to know I was needed. My feet took off before my head knew what was going on. Praying silently to my self, Don’t trip. Don’t fall on your ass. Your wearing flip flops, don’t fall. I dove into the water and swam to the man splashing around. I grabbed a hold of him from behind, with his back to me. He was starting to drift back under the water, when I yanked him back really hard.
Realizing he was heavier then I thought, I yanked even harder to break his grip on what he was holding on to, he gasped for air and looked back at me over his shoulder. I locked eyes with him, and if I could have been able to speak I would have tried to reassure him that he was going to be ok, but I couldn’t. Just then I felt a hand on my foot. Instantly I began swimming towards the shore. When I looked over my shoulder, as I was getting a little tired, my boyfriend was coming to help me save him. I handed him to Rafe and dove under the water to search for the other guy. Frantically on a mission, knowing that time was against me, I searched the green murky waters. Resurfacing, I found three men staring at me and the water.
I began yelling, “Look for the bubbles! Look for the bubbles! He’s under here somewhere,” as I pointed in the area I felt his hand on my foot. My heart was pounding in my chest.
Rafe yelled, “Alena C’mon. Are you ok? Come back in.”
“No, I’m fine, look for the bubbles,” just then, a man resurfaced.
Yelling out, “I got him. I got him.” And started swimming with a lifeless body in his grasp, wearing a red shirt and blue shorts.
I was relieved, as I kept thinking to my self while searching. We gotta find him. We can’t just give up because we can’t see him. Keep going. I’m not going to lie, I was terrified at actually finding him under that water. I knew he’d be limp and just drifting in the water. Would I be able to lift him soaking wet? Would I be able to carry him to shore and swim?
Once on the shore, the men started CPR and chest compressions. I stood back to catch my breath. I looked over and seen the first guy, in the tan shorts sitting down on the ground, leaned over, throwing up. His eyes were closed and he was struggling to catch his breath too. I reached over, touching his knee, “Are you ok?”
“I’m…o…k. I’m…just…tired.” He choked out in between vomiting spells.
“Are you sure?” I insisted, and he just moaned and shook his head yes.
Feeling relieved a bit for him, I turned my attention to the other guy. Who was still not breathing, had blood tainted mucus coming from his nose, laying lifeless on the rocky beach. I wasn’t sure if anyone had called 9-1-1 yet, so I ran up to my camp site to retrieve my phone. When I seen my son, it was then that I remembered my kids were witnessing all of this.
My son handed me my cell phone and said, “I called 9-1-1 mom. They’re on there way.”
“You stay up here! You hear me? Keep everyone up here!” and I grabbed my car keys. I went to the guard at the front of the camp ground to see if he, in any way, might be able to help.
Honking my horn as I pulled up, I rolled the window down and asked, “Did someone call 9-1-1?”
“Yes. They’re on their way. They are 15 minutes out. This gentlemen is waiting here to show them where to go. Is he breathing yet?”
“No. And it doesn’t look good. Is there anyone here at camp that can take over doing CPR?”
“Not that I know of.”
I got back into my car, and drove to the other end of the beach where day time people use the lake. I passed three men standing on the side of the road and asked, “Do you know how to do CPR?”
Stunned by my question, they answered, “Yes, why? What’s going on?”
“Two people tried to drowned and the ambulance is 15 minutes out and the guys doing CPR now are going to get tired. Could you assist?”
“Yeah. We’ll follow you.”
I did a U-turn and headed back down to the campsite. The men followed as I approached the crowd of people hovering over the 2nd man in the blue shorts. I noticed an older man, standing away from the crowd taking pictures. He had a badge hanging around his neck. I couldn’t believe the newspaper got here before the paramedics.
I came around to find Rafe propping the him against his leg while he lay on the ground. They had stopped the CPR as he was gasping for air, trying to breathe. His family member was in his face, chanting to him, “Come on Feng. One more breath. Come on you can do it.”
I came around to the back him, making a fist, running my knuckles up and down his spine. Stimulating him to keep breathing. I remembered someone telling me, Pain stimulates the body and nervous system. Pain can keep an unconscious person conscious.
I continued doing this until the paramedics showed up 5 minutes later. Once they arrived, I helped the paramedic pick him up and drag him up the hill to a more flat ground. Feeling they could take over, I returned to the first victim. Who was still struggling to catch his breath.
I guessed he still had water in his lungs, as his eyes were still closed. I fireman followed me over to him, when I asked him, “Are you ok?”
“I’m…really…tired…” he responded with a very labored breathing and passed out. The fireman called his co-worker over, where they put an oxygen mask on him.
Not wanting to get in the way, I stepped back and let the professionals take over.
It was then, that I went back up to my camp, to get a bottle of ice cold water to drink from as I made my way back to Rafe. I knew I was dehydrated, so I knew Rafe was too. I brought him a water bottle and stood back. Watching the helicopter land.
Once I seen everyone starting to move away, the Sheriff’s officer, headed over to me. She started asking me what my part was in the whole event. I told her everything I could remember. After she was through the park ranger asked to speak to me, but my son was calling my name. I told the park ranger, that I needed to check on my kids, and told him where he could find me if he needed anything.
* * *
That night and every night after, I have been waking up struggling to get away from that day. I get really scared when I think about entering that water again. I want to be strong, and go swimming there again. It’s my favorite spot to camp and I am really bothered by the fact that I will always remember this day and I think it may plague me when I return.
I want to know that he lived. I want to make sure he walked out of the hospital. I have searched every news paper article and online to find out, but like all news, you can’t trust it. Especially when each article is either quoting each other or reporting facts from unverified sources.
It pains me that, only the girlfriend thanked me. And only because we were helping to carry her thing’s back up to her campsite. Even after they returned that night to pack up their belonging’s did we find out that the 1st guy were rescued, was treated and released that night. The 2nd man was put on life support and was said to have severe brain damage if he survived.
On Monday morning, the local area newspapers were reporting that he was listed as “fair condition” and one even said, “he was released”.
I need the closure to put this behind me. I will not settle unless I know 100% either way. I may not have been properly thanked, but in my heart, wither these people were just plain stupid or truly gang bangers, I hope this lesson taught them. 5 people thought they were important enough to save, and put their lives on the line to save them. If this event doesn’t teach them, then I hope someone reading about it will learn the basic lesson of simply, “Paying It Forward” “Wear a life vest” “Learn to swim” “When someone saves your life, say THANK YOU”.
UPDATE: As of this afternoon, despite what the papers are reporting, the 2nd man is still at Enloe hospital, and is listed as “fair condition”…whatever that means. He is responding to external stimuli and the doctors are expecting him to recover.