Life is a precious gift. It can be taken from us at any moment with no notice whatsoever. Never was this point brought home any clearer to me than it was early this afternoon on the docks. Here’s what happened.
I had just finished my lunch and was heading back to my dock shack when I saw my favorite dentist at the sailboat hoist preparing to launch his boat. He is in a partnership on a racing sailboat and takes part in all the local regattas. My assistant had already finished his lunch and was helping someone launch a powerboat at the main hoist.
I went over to lend a hand at the sailboat hoist and to catch up on what’s going on with my dentist. We talked for a bit and I learned that he and his partner were putting the sailboat in the water so that they could take the trailer to have it worked on.
We got the sailboat in the water with no trouble at all and decided on a slip to move it to for the time period it will take to get the trailer worked on. I headed over to the slip to catch their lines as my dentist, Kevin, and his partner made ready to cast off and motor over.
I was almost to the slip when I heard Kevin yell at the top of his lungs, “SAM!” I started moving quickly back towards the ramp to get me off the dock. I looked over and saw our maintenance supervisor running full speed towards Kevin at the sailboat hoist docking area. Kevin was bent over the side of the dock and holding on to his partner who was in the water. The maintenance supervisor got there fast and helped Kevin get his partner out of the water and stretched out on
I yelled to my assistant to grab our heart defibrillator while I ran for the golf cart. Arriving as quickly as we could, I ran down the sailboat hoist dock and saw Kevin performing mouth to mouth resuscitation on his partner. When I bent down on the ground to set up the defibrillator, I looked at Kevin’s partner and his face had turned blue and his eyes were wide open with a blank expression. He was not breathing and he had no heart beat. I tore the protective backing off the paddles and stuck them in the proper positions as the partner coughed some water up. I turned on the defibrillator and the machine ran a quick analysis and said a shock was called for. I cleared Kevin from the body and pushed the shock button. The partner’s color almost immediately changed from blue to beet red and the machine said another shock was not called for.
Kevin threw himself into the mouth to mouth resuscitation. We now had a pulse and needed the partner to start breathing on his own. More and more water came up from the partner. Kevin kept clearing the breathing passage and kept on working on him. The eyes closed and opened again and the partner started breathing on his own, coughing up volumes of water each time.
I had brought a towel down that I always keep on my golf cart and shoved it under the partner’s head. Kevin told me to look at the coloration around the partner’s fingers and told me that the man was going into shock. Kevin asked for my sweatshirt and I took it off and wrapped it around the partner. More and more it seemed the man was able to breath on his own and Kevin could devote his energy to keeping the breathing passage clear as water and mucus kept coming up.
During all this activity, the maintenance supervisor used his cell phone to call 911 and request an ambulance. I was told the ambulance arrived in just a mater of minutes, but it seemed an eternity to me.
The partner was drifting in and out of shock and was barely conscious. He could not recognize us and did not know where he was. As the EMT technicians tried to strap him onto the flat board and secure his neck in a brace, the partner fought us. I had to hold his legs so he would not kick one of the EMT’s into the water.
A second ambulance arrived as well as two policed cruisers. With the help of the second team of technicians, the partner was finally strapped down on the board and transferred to a gurney for the trip up the dock ramp and into the back of one of the ambulances. Just before the doors to the ambulance were closed, the partner finally looked at Kevin and asked, “Kevin, what the hell’s going on here?” Kevin reassured the partner and sent the ambulance off towards the hospital.
The second set of EMT’s wanted a full account of what happened from Kevin as one of the police officers, a friend of mine, cornered me for a full report for his bosses. My policeman friend called the County Marine Patrol Unit who at first said to hold us there until they could arrive on scene. A second call to the marine patrol resulted in them saying that because the boat was not moving at the time of the accident, they did not need to respond and the police could release us after they finished their report.
It seems that after I had walked away from their boat earlier, the partner was getting ready to cast off and jumped over the boom on the sail boat’s mast to cross the boat. His foot caught on something and he sprawled face first out onto the concrete dock and lost consciousness. Kevin secured his line to the cleat on the dock in order to go and help the partner. He took his eyes off the partner only for a second, but in that short amount of time the partner had slipped off the dock into the water. He disappeared below the surface instantly and was well on his way to the bottom before Kevin was able to grab him to pull him back up. Kevin had screamed “SAM!” When the partner had first hit the dock and the maintenance supervisor reached Kevin very quickly to help pull the partner back up onto the dock.
After the event was over and all the emergency vehicles had left, Kevin and I sat down on the chairs I keep in front of my dock shack. We were both still shaking and passed light conversation between us as we tried to calm back down before we had to do anything else today. Kevin thinks the prognosis is good for the partner, but promised to call me as soon as he hears what the doctors have to say.
Kevin called me from the hospital before I left work. His partner is listed in critical condition. He will on a respirator for several days. He ingested a huge amount of salt water and when his condition stabilizes they will have to try and cleanse the salt from his lungs. At some point after he comes off the respirator, they will do a CAT scan to determine the extent of his head injury sustained when his head hit the concrete dock. His name is Bill and he could use your prayers right about now.
All in all, it was quite a Friday the thirteenth for me today. I don’t ever want to have to go through something like that again. I am glad, though, that I signed up for the CPR course I took this last August to freshen up my skills. If any of you have a chance to in the future, take the course. You never know whose life you might save, or when.