04-18-2008, 08:48 AM #1
Rescues can test lifeguards resilience
Rescues can test lifeguards’ resilience
By Peter Davis
Contributor Published April 12, 2008
We all spend a really, really short time on this spinning blue ball. One thing we know is that during our brief stay here, we will be tested.
Some of us endure unbelievable physical challenges. Most of us have some kind of emotional traumatic experience that we must find a way to muddle through. Some of us are stronger for the experience, while others are overcome, at least for a time, and regress on the paths we set for ourselves. For us to not only survive, but also to thrive, we need to save up the emotional, mental and physical currency we’ll need when our personal test comes.
My test came in 2000. I was in good shape, having participated in “Rescue 2000,” the world lifesaving competition in Sydney, Australia. It was Memorial Day weekend, and we were really busy.
We had been going from call to call. We got a call that there were multiple swimmers in distress on the Galveston side of the San Luis Pass Bridge.
When we pulled up, there was mass chaos. Fishermen were pulling in a couple of swimmers.
I opted for the speed and flotation of a rescue board/buoy combo and paddled out to a group hanging on to a boogie board that had been offered to them by a fast-thinking bystander.
On the way out, I blew my whistle to catch the attention of a man on a personal watercraft in the area and pointed to a couple of swimmers going under while trying to help each other a good distance from shore.
The group on the boogie board was relatively stable, so I bypassed them and grabbed two farther out.
After ferrying both groups in, to the waiting EMS unit one by one, I was able to finally make it to the personal watercraft, where the driver and two victims were barely hanging on. The driver took one in and I took the other.
Afterward, as I lay in the sand, I realized if I hadn’t just come off that competition, I would have had to live with losing someone I was trying to save.
You’re only as good as you are on a given day.
We try to impress on our guards that they need to be near their potential on as many days as possible.
Peter Davis is chief of the Galveston Island Beach Patrol. The views in this column are Davis’ and do not necessarily represent those of the Beach Patrol, Galveston Park Board or any other entity. Information on the Beach Patrol is at www.galvestonbeachpatrol.com.
04-18-2008, 08:50 AM #2
Friends come to rescue when surfboard accident threatens a life
By JOHN SWARTZ
The Daily Reflector of Greenville
GREENVILLE, N.C. --
When Michael Garland left for spring break, he had a lot of expectations. Chief among them, spending time with friends.
What he didn't know was how much he needed them.
Garland started his week like many other students. He packed up his vehicle and headed to the beach. The Daily Reflector of Greenville reported that it's the way he ended it, though, that was completely unexpected - sitting in a hospital bed.
On his trip to Pine Knoll Shores, an afternoon of surfing quickly turned into a life-or-death situation when Garland's surfboard turned on him.
During a wipeout, the board rotated under him. When they both smacked the water, one of the three fins punctured his left thigh.
"I was on a wave and I was starting a nose dive and I threw the board out from under me, and it somehow got back in front of me," said Garland, a multi-sport athlete at D.H. Conley who was in the middle of his senior baseball season. "I was directly over the board, and it hit the ground. However it did it, the wave just pushed me into the board and it cut my leg all up."
Knowing he was injured, Garland quickly made his way back to the sand, and his friends took over from there.
Garland's future roommate at East Carolina University, John Batson, was the first to get to the injured surfer, and he began applying pressure to the wound. After seeing the blood in the water, Keith Gorham sprinted the roughly 200 yards back to where the rest of their group was located.
"Like in all the shark movies, I saw all the blood around him in the water," Gorham said. "I thought it was a shark attack at first. He made it to the beach, and I looked down at it ... it was bad. So I just took off to tell someone to call 9-1-1."
When a stern-voiced Gorham ran up, the rest of Garland's friends snapped into action. Several phone calls were made, and they all took off down the beach.
"Keith came running up to us and at first he said somebody got bit by a shark," Garland's girlfriend, Jade Ross, said. "I just freaked out; it was crazy. I ran over to where Michael was and just held his head."
Once a few more of their friends arrived, Batson had an idea of how he could better secure the wound.
"It already looked like he had lost a lot of blood," said Batson, who was celebrating his birthday that day. "I had my hand over his leg ... it was pumping blood out pretty good. One of the girls that was down there, Chelsea Buffington, she had on some skirt cover-up thing. She took that off and we put that over (the wound) ... to restrict the flow of the blood."
Batson's quick action almost came as second nature to him. Though he's never been in that perilous a situation before, he's had a little practice.
"This past summer, I went on an Outward Bound trip to Costa Rica," Batson said. "We had CPR and first aid training there, so that really helped out in knowing what to do. I'm glad it had an impact on saving one of my best friends' life."
Garland was conscious the whole time, and he says that had Gorham and Batson not both been there, he might not be here.
"Keith was the first one out of the water," Garland said. "I told him to go get somebody. Then I laid on the beach, and John came up and put a lot of pressure on my leg. The doctors said that ended up saving my life because it helped clog the artery up."
It was an injury that, despite the blood, didn't seem too serious initially to Garland.
"At first, I didn't really know how big of a deal it was," said Garland, who - it turns out - misdiagnosed his situation.
From the scene, Garland was transported to Carteret General Hospital, where he had his wound stitched. The staff there kept checking on Garland's injury.
As the minutes and hours ticked by, the news kept getting worse and worse for the Garland family.
It was discovered that Garland had a blood clot in his left leg, near his femoral artery. Garland needed trauma surgery, and he was medevaced to Pitt County Memorial Hospital.
"At first, I thought it was just going to be a little cut," Garland's father, Hal Garland, said. "I was told it wasn't going to be that bad, and I wasn't even going to go down there. But I decided to go ahead and go. I saw the cut, and it was nasty. I was hoping the next step was going to be positive, and then they said he had to fly to Greenville. That was a little scary. Then they did a test and found a clot, and that's scary. Then they go into surgery, and they say they found out the (femoral) artery's been severed, and that's even scarier.
"They said if it hadn't clotted, he would have bled to death. That's really scary."
The femoral artery, according to trauma surgeon Scott Sagraves, is about as wide as someone's pinky finger. The artery is "a major vessel that supplies blood to the lower leg," Sagraves said.
When Garland arrived at PCMH, he came into the care of Sagraves, who is an associate professor with the Brody School of Medicine as well as being a trauma surgeon.
Sagraves works for the trauma center for the eastern region of North Carolina, which covers every case east of Interstate 95.
Because of confidentiality concerns, Sagraves could only comment on generalizations about femoral artery injuries. But he stated that, "It's definitely limb threatening if not life threatening. There is a potential that someone can bleed to death in minutes."
While it was Sagraves that performed the final medical procedure on Garland, he said it was a combination of everything working together that saved his life.
"The system really worked for him," Sagraves said. "From his buddies to the local hospital. It made the difference between him being here today and bleeding to death on the beach. The kid on the beach who stopped the bleeding allowed (Garland) to get to the local hospital. (Carteret General) did their job in diagnosing the situation, realizing they didn't have the surgical capabilities and getting him to us.
"It was a total group effort."
For Garland's family, relief finally set in when the surgery was pronounced a success.
"They came out after surgery and said his artery had been severed," said Garland's sister Michele, a nursing student at East Carolina University. "But they told us the good with the bad. They told us right then that it was severed but that they repaired it. That felt good."
The first time Garland left his bed, he was so eager to get back to his life, he perhaps started a bit too fast.
After becoming lightheaded and passing out, Garland was given a two-unit blood transfusion.
His second attempt to walk was more successful.
"The next day, we tried it all again and it felt a whole lot better," he said. "I had a lot more energy, and I wasn't lightheaded at all. I was sore, but it was good to get up and get walking again."
Since then, Garland shunned the wheelchair, pitched aside the crutches and only stuck with the cane for two days. On April 1, he met with Gorham and Batson.
Garland stepped from his father's SUV and walked on his own.
"Where's your cane?" his dad asked.
Garland simply shook his head.
After rain pushed back the D.H. Conley-J.H. Rose baseball game a day, Garland made his return to the diamond. He won't be playing any time soon, but he was in the Vikings' dugout supporting his teammates on April 2.
"Michael's too good a kid not to have out there," Conley coach Jason Mills said. "He loves baseball, and it will always be a part of his life."
Two days after his injury, and when Garland was lying in a hospital bed, it was widely considered that his senior baseball season was over. As he walked on his own just four days after that, it was "no longer totally out of the question."
As for whatever the future holds, Garland's father is just glad his son is in it.
"It's going to be a pleasure," he said. "He's a good, strong kid. God blessed him, that's for sure."
Information from: The Daily Reflector, http://www.reflector.com
04-18-2008, 08:52 AM #3
Survivor believes in "curious occurrences"
LAURA SCATURRO, The Edwardsville Intelligencer
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Jim and Ingrid Perotti
Although the date of March 19, 2008, is well documented for Jim Perotti and his family through photos, videos, newspaper clippings, television reports, and the recollections of friends and family, there's one piece of documentation that Perotti keeps very close at hand - his handwritten list of curious occurrences that also happened that day - occurrences that he believes saved his life.
On March 19, Perotti became trapped between an overturned jonboat and a metal bracket while in the middle of a fierce whirlpool of water draining into the Morning Glory dam located at the southern end of Holiday Lake.
The dam, which is 6-foot-by-8-foot concrete and metal fixture, resembles a drain protruding above the surface of the lake.
Although there is a set of three drainage pipes located close to the Morning Glory dam that serve as the primary drainage point to maintain the lake level, Perotti knew that clearing out the Morning Glory Dam would further assist in bringing the lake back to the normal pool of 505 feet above mean sea level.
That day the lake was 18 inches above full pool as a result of the enormous amount of rain that fell earlier in the week.
Perotti has cleared the Morning Glory dam of debris dozens of times in the past seven years as Holishor Association General Manager. He and his wife Ingrid have lived in the community for more than 30 years.
He began by clearing out a very small corner of the drain by taking a small handful of leaves out. This action created a very small opening in the drain. However, the small whirlpool he created opened up unexpectedly and immediately pulled the jonboat sideways and underwater. In a matter of a second the boat was pulled into the whirlpool and dragged across the drain where Perotti was standing. The jonboat came to a stop up against a metal bar protruding out. Perotti was in between the boat and the metal bar when the boat lunged toward him - his ankle stuck between the two objects that were caught in the gigantic whirlpool in the 430 acre lake.
Perotti said he immediately knew he was in trouble.
Perotti, age 65, suffered for 55 minutes in 42-degree water in Holiday Lake while rescuers tried to free him. The wind chill was reported at 35 degrees that day.
Today, Perotti sits in a comfortable chair with his injured left leg elevated. He holds the list in his hand and recalls the events leading up to his accident and during his rescue.
The first odd occurrence Perotti recalled is when Corey McConnell's personal vehicle broke down - right in front of where Perotti was trapped in the lake. McConnell, a 13-year member of the Holiday Shores Fire Department, was traveling across Holiday Dam Road in his personal vehicle on his way to the Holiday Shores firehouse responding to the rescue call.
McConnell was also the firefighter who held Perotti's head above water during the rescue.
"I went down three times," Perotti said. "I tried to hold on the best I could. I was so tired I couldn't stand it. I finally told Corey, just let go."
Perotti remembers McConnell saying to him,"That's not happening - I will not leave you."
Perotti said, "Corey wrapped a few more ropes around me and he pulled me up more."
A decision made by Perotti and his co-workers, Alan Henke and Brian Bradshaw, earlier in the morning, proved to be another curious event that would assist Perotti in saving his own life.
Perotti and his coworkers discussed the pros and cons about taking the security boat out of dry dock storage when the lake was over pool. He had received reports that two boats had become loose from their docks - he wanted to retrieve them and return them to their owners. He ended up making the decision to put in the security boat.
This same boat was later used to rescue Perotti. This was the boat that McConnell stood in holding the lifeline that kept Perottti's head above water for 55 minutes. Without having the use of that boat and the quick action of a co-worker bringing it to the scene, Perotti believes that McConnell would not have been able to withstand the cold lake temperatures for any amount of time.
Being stationed in the watercraft also provided McConnell with leverage in the effort to keep Perotti above the surface of the water.
Another item listed by Perotti is the neoprene dry suits used by Holiday Shores fire personnel. The suits, purchased several years ago, allowed rescuers to withstand the cold temperature of the water. He believes that without those suits the firefighters would not have been able to enter the water and effectively assist in the nearly 60 minute life-saving rescue.
Firefighters placed in the water were able to relay vital communication from the water to the shore, often shouting to each other over the loud rumble of the water - a result of the turbulent whirlpool.
A decision to use chains was made, after two attempts using rope secured to the overturned jonboat with men pulling from shore failed.
Firefighters from Holiday Shores gathered together every chain available, hooking them together in the effort to secure the chain to the jonboat then pull it out of the whirlpool using the power of a fire truck on shore.
After securing the chain to the jonboat, the length of the chain fell short - not reaching the fire truck on shore.
Just then a Madison County maintenance worker happened upon the accident scene. He was stopped by the firemen and asked if he had any chains. He did, and the length of chain he had in his vehicle was the exact amount necessary to secure the jonboat to the fire truck and rescue the father of two. Yet another event listed on Perotti's list.
After instructions from a weary but conscious Perotti on the angle that the boat should be pulled from the whirlpool Perotti was finally freed.
The ARCH helicopter crew immediately took over once he was on shore. Another item he is thankful for - the ARCH helicopter and the flight crew were available for the rescue.
Perotti is now home recovering from hypothermia, a broken left leg, bruises and cuts. He has endured two surgeries, one placing a titanium rod in his left leg. He has received many well wishes and appreciates all the kind words and prayers he has received. He spends his days resting, watching television and reading. He is anxious to get back to work. His wife, Ingrid, is doing her best keeping him in his chair to rest.
Perotti is also thankful to Holiday Shores Association Manager Glenn Dalton and the Holishor Board President Roger Groth who were both on shore with the rescue team helping wherever they could. The men have kept in close contact with Perotti while he was in the hospital and throughout his recovery process.
"Everyone was busting their tails trying to get me out," Perotti said. "I can't say enough about the firemen, my co-workers, and all the others who helped get me out. The fire department was awesome. I am very lucky."
©Edwardsville Intelligencer 2008
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