I haven’t really talked to many people about my strange/shocking/sad moment last week but I will here because it’s part of my LifeInFIRE.
My schetchle ended up shuffling around so that I had a swim listed on Tuesday, October 5th, 2021. I list the exact date because, well it changed a part of life for many people.
I was swimming laps at the gym in Encinitas. The pool was pretty busy as normal, I remember counting about 8 people in the 4 lanes, including a few people walking in the far lane, as well as a couple of people standing on the pool deck talking. I was feeling OK going back and forth, noticing the people in the next lane with flippers moving along nicely thinking “that looks more enjoyable,” but I know I have to give it my full-human effort at this point in life. It was an ironic thought looking back.
Back and forth, back and forth, then on my 12th lap into my 36 lap mile I’m taking a breath on my right side, and the Asian lady in the lane next to me—who got into the pool at the exact same time as me, and smiled toward me because we were both lucky to have an opening to share a lane with other people at a pretty busy pool-was floating as you see in the movies.
Here’s my mind: what am I seeing, I stop swimming and move toward the lane line thinking just “maybe she is doing a relaxation thing?” but that only lasted a split second as I dunked under the lane line and tapped her unresponsive shoulder.
I grabbed her and began pulling her the 10 feet to the edge while yelling “HELP, Get Help” to the two ladies talking on the deck. They both stared at me without moving for a couple of seconds, so I yelled “Bang on the Glass” which leads to the main gym area, right by the front desk, manager, and sales team. They didn’t understand what I was saying and started walking (quite slowly, scared) around the edge to me and I repeated to “BANG ON THE GLASS.” Nothing from them.
I lifted the nice lady (who else would take the time to smile toward me) up and halfway onto the desk when two guys rushed over to pull her out. They asked if she was breathing and I said “no, I don’t think so, do CRP.” They paused and while I was still in the pool said “just press her chest.” I swam over to the ladder and popped out (more like, carefully climbed the in-wall steps), and rushed to the lady. None of the three of us were able to start CPR for that 10 seconds, but a 3rd guy and a lady (with spinning shoes on) arrived and did a couple of things, and then 10-15 seconds later they started CRP. They were both nurses who were at the gym and came running, full-speed to help anyone in danger.
I’m sorry this is so long, but I’m in the zone sharing something so real and doubly important.
WE ALL told another lady watching to call 911 TWICE. Actually, I think that was immediately before the 2 nurses arrived. She must have heard my strongly calling for help and walked over. I knew to yell LOUD so anyone close could hear. You could probably hear something loud coming into both locker rooms.
So initial CPR did not work. The paramedics arrived quickly <5 minutes? The gym did a great job opening doors 15’ away and placing people outside to flag down the paramedics for quick attention. They all worked on the lady and did maybe a dozen procedures to try to bring her back. The ambulance brought her to the nearest hospital. I don’t believe she survived. Her husband was at the gym because he came to her side just after the paramedics. I spoke to him and told him “I was swimming next to her, something happened and I pulled her out of the pool within a minute. I’ve seen her swimming before and today we both got into the pool at the same time, I want you to know she smiled at me before we both got and she was happy to be swimming.” He said “she has stage 3 lung cancer, never smoked, was halfway through chemo and the day before her right foot swelled up and urgent care couldn’t find anything.” I said, “I’m so sorry, but she was smiling.” He did a little head nod bow and I stepped back.
Before I left the house I was talking to my neighbor about how it’s it’s strange to just move your arms swimming back and forth and think non-stop for 35ish minutes. When I swim (crappy swimmer) there’s nothing to worry about like running or biking, or planning like lifting weights in the middle of everyone else. It’s just a physical, and mind thinking zone. It’s pretty special in some ways. My swimming is an active form of meditation or gratitude, while suffering a little.
During the care of the nice lady, the gym staff cleared out the members watching (some were TOTALLY freaked out, inside I was in knots and pain, but outside I showed my best strength) but I didn’t leave. I just stepped way back and each time they approached me to leave I said “I pulled her out, I’m going to just stay back here.” They do my sentence as “he’s ok here.” Position your strength for what YOU want. I wanted to be there for the police, the husband, the nice lady, and myself. Do What You Want, if it’s the right thing!
I’m sure we lost that nice lady last week at the pool. I’m sure her passing is sad to her family. I hope her husband shares that she was happy at the time. I’m sure I’ll never be the same. I’ll never swim the same. I’ll never see someone getting paramedic help the same. I’m sure I’m better from the loss of that nice lady.
I could/should end the post there my philosophical statements but I can’t, well, because that’s me.
So the gym staff closed the doors behind the paramedics and everyone went back to the previous locations. I was standing there out of the way. I was standing there in the large pool, Jacuzzi area all by myself.
I walked over to the pretty big 4-lane pool and it was (word removed) “perfectly” silent. I’ve swum at this pool for 10 years, dozens and dozens and dozens of times and it’s never been so still and silent. There is always some activity. At that moment, I just knew that time goes on. Hopefully, we proceed in a better state.
I looked around for a LONG minute, popped back into the water at the end of my lane, the same lane I was in. Looked at my watch and 20 minutes had passed since I stopped my exercise after climbing out of the water. I thought about the lives changed in that 20 minutes. I thought about how my remaining 24 laps (<24 minutes) would be less time than the entire incident.
I pressed apple watch start, beep, beep, beep down the lane I went. I just moved my arms swimming back and forth and thinking non-stop for now, 24ish minutes. Every second (alternating) breathe I looked to the lane where I would see that nice lady swimming (and worse thought in my mind) and I just tried to enjoy the life and activity I had at that moment.
On the phone later my wife said “what do you do after the ambulance left?” I said, “umm, what do you think?” She said, “you finished your swim.” Yes, of course, I did, but it was different. It may have been better.
Live your life, help where you can.
*** Nothing in this article is to be construed as financial advice. I am not a financial planner, nor do I pretend to be. You should always consult your own professional when seeking advice. This post is not a piece of literary mastery, just a random thought I had.
What an experience!
I like hearing how you share it’s affected you – “Live your life, help where you can.”
I’ve had something like that happen more than once.
One time, I walked into our post office at the same moment a woman was collapsing onto the lobby floor. People seemed to be standing still as if they were statues. I pointed to one person using her cell phone and told her to call 911. I asked if anyone knew CPR, and nobody seemed to move. I asked again loudly if anyone knew CPR, and one person slightly raised her hand. I pointed to her and told her to come over and help me.
We both started CPR, but the woman didn’t respond at first.
It didn’t seem like long until the paramedics arrived. They shooed all of us away so they could help the woman. As far as I know, the woman survived.
The incident encouraged me to refresh my CPR training. It helped me less than a year later in a very different situation, but that’s another story.
Again, your message is great: “Live your life, help where you can.”
You’re amazing. I haven’t had CRP training in 20+ years and as I watched the two nurses working on the lady, I realized I didn’t have the skill for that. They REALLY pushed HARD. It makes sense to pump the heart muscle.
You sir, are a problem solver and not a “freezer.” You’re life helping/saving energy will always be rewarded in your time on our planet.