Posted 08-19-2003 at 05:35:06
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I was watching a documentary on hurricanes last night. As scared as I am of violent weather I cannot NOT watch these programs about hurricanes and tornados. I perpetuate my own terror by immersing myself in first hand accounts of people who survive these horrible natural disasters.
A woman was talking about her near drowning experience. I can't quote her verbatim, but basically she said that storm surge plowed her house over and the next thing she knew she was in over her head, and her lungs were full of seawater. 'It wasn't so bad', she said, 'in fact for a minute there, I thought I could actually breathe the water. I don't think drowning would be so bad'.
What happened was that the water was so churned up due to the storm, that it had a high level of oxygen mixed in and for a few seconds she actually could breathe the water. It wasn't til she found higher ground that she was able to cough and gag and expel the actual liquid that was in her lungs.
I had a near drowning experience and I can tell you that it IS so bad. Under normal circumstances, the water is not packed full of air and when it goes into your lungs it is awful. I was about six and swimming in the lake at Temple Texas. I got out too far, got tired and was sinking fast.
I could see my father and mother on the beach each time I came up for another frantic breath of air. By the time my father reacted I knew that there was no way he was going to reach me in time, so I pretty much gave up and let myself slide under for the last time, went limp as a dishrag, gave myself over to Jesus.
Just when I had relaxed and allowed the water to enter whichever port it chose to enter, I felt a hand supporting my scrawny little bikini clad bottom. The hand was huge, felt like I was seated comfortably on a bar stool. Up, up, up, I went and then, my head broke the surface. I gagged and puked and drew in great lungfuls of sweet hot August air, while my extremities locked up, all my energy focused on getting air in and out.
I looked frantically about for a face to connect to the hand and then I found him. He looked like Captain Kangaroo with no clothes. Big burly blonde man with a handlebar moustache and more curly hair on his chest than I've seen on a lot of dogs.
"You like to not made it, little darlin'." he rumbled in a soft Texas drawl. I threw my arms around his neck and held on for dear life, still sputtering and spouting lake water.
"I got you, I got you, I won't let you go." He reassured me. About that time my father got there and collected me. I applied myself to him like a trembling second skin while he shook hands with the Captain and exchanged a few words.
I spent the rest of the afternoon playing at the edge of the water. No more swimming for me.
My husband and I agree that the worst part about potential drowning is the terror of fighting to keep it from happening, fighting for all you're worth to keep your head above water. I do remember a tentative peace once I gave up and just let go. At that point I already had a double lungful of water and I guess really at the moment it seemed that death would not be so bad, but then I assumed I had no other alternative. I'm not so sure it was peace I was experiencing, as much as resignation.
I have since learned to swim like a fish and to teach my kids how to survive in the water. Not just to swim, but to think and to be safe. How to tread water if there's no way to get out, how to pace themselves if they have to swim a long distance. Funny how those things we experience in life can impact us for years and years and years, and all those around us.