The following article first appeared on LoveSooke.com on February 22, 2015, and is reprinted here with permission. Check out Deanna Brett’s talents via her Twitter account, @LoveSooke.
A Close Call, Very Close to Home
Article and photos by Deanna Brett
A beautiful day it was, yesterday in Sooke. I dropped my car off at a friend’s place to get some repairs done. I decided that instead of hovering around, I would do what I love to do; beachcomb! So I checked out a new spot to me. The beach entry was Lannan Flats, and I was thinking this day could only get better if that wind would die down. Despite my very light complaint about it being chilly, I really didn’t have too much to complain about when it came to the weather. It wasn’t that cold. Unlike the ocean, which is always cold! I have no doubt the bitter temperatures of the ocean would bite even harder on a February day.
I looked ahead to check out the surrounding area and noticed this beautiful silhouette of a couple coming out of the water. I wanted to take their picture, as they looked incredible all back-lit. I did notice that one boat was upside down. I decided to walk up and say hello. The lovely lady looked at me, said “hello” and asked what I was taking pictures of. I spoke to her briefly and went to walk away. I then noticed she was soaked and shivering. At that moment I was no longer chilly.
They’re a lovely couple that moved to Sooke just 3 weeks prior. Their landlord had a couple of kayaks for them to use. Both of them have past kayaking experience, and some ocean kayaking as well. They left East Sooke around 9:30am and the conditions started off perfect, “Glass like” was their words. Regardless, the conditions changed as the tide was coming in and the wind had picked up. They had originally left East Sooke and went all around the basin and were making their way to The Stickleback for lunch. Between the current, winds, and the waves in the basin, things progressively got tougher out there and keeping the boats afloat was a problem. They never made it to The Stickleback.
As they were trying to get their composure back, they were grabbing whatever they could that was close by to light a fire. They needed this fire for warmth. In good conscience, I couldn’t turn my back and walk away. I offered them my last stick of fire-starter from my camera bag and grabbed a fresh lighter from my pack. In minutes, there was a fire and the couple sat beside it to warm up. I offered the lady my scarf and my hot coffee, as she needed it more than me. I continued to grab bigger, dry logs to burn, and soon enough the fire was warming them up. They were cold, and at this point could not go anywhere. I had thought about calling for help, but they were okay. They were shivering, talking, explaining what had happened. They were in no state that I believed I needed to call someone yet. I knew together we could figure it out.
I offered the couple a ride back to East Sooke, as my car would be ready soon and we could go. Once I knew they were okay, I was going to run to the car and grab my blankets. I figured if we could bring the kayaks down the road, they could stay at a friend’s place. Unfortunately, the repairs on the car ended up taking longer than I thought, and I was no longer able to give them a ride back. My friend showed up, and without hesitation, he offered the couple a ride home. Not only that, but he carried one of the kayaks down the street, and stored them in his yard.
Without a truck to move the kayaks, they had no choice but to plan another kayak trip the next morning. One person was going to paddle one kayak, and tow the other one. To be honest, I just wanted to make sure they were safe. I feared that towing a wobbly kayak might pull the other one over, and then into the ocean all over again. I arranged a ride with another friend, and he helped get the two kayaks back to East Sooke. I slept comfortably knowing they will not be trying this again right away!
A little back story to my train of thought here. The couple had told me that the night before the they went on an evening kayak ride, and had another scare. As they were returning after dark, the gentleman made a mistake and ended up in the water. Having to swim at least a 1/4 mile, he thought he was going to die. If it wasn’t for the will to survive and his lovely lady who had to pull him up on the dock and drag him home and warm him up, he very well might have. They were both so scared. Unaware of what to do, she got him in the hot tub. He was then in excruciating pain. He figures he was in the water for 30 minutes.
Do you know what to do if you find someone with potential hypothermia? Here are a few things you should not do — place them in a hot body of water, rub or massage their limbs. Do not use heat pads and or heat lamps. Doing so can cause the blood vessels in the arms and legs to dilate too quickly. If this happens, it can lead to a fall in blood pressure to the vital organs such as the brain, heart, lungs, and kidneys. Potentially resulting in cardiac arrest and even death.
Here’s what you should do. I pulled this info off the internet, because to be honest, I wasn’t sure of all steps.
Move the person indoors or somewhere warm as soon as possible. Once the person is in a warm environment, carefully remove any wet clothing and dry the person. Wrap them in blankets, towels, coats (whatever you have available), protecting their head and torso first.
Your own body heat can help someone with hypothermia. Gently hugging them can help warm them up. Encourage the person to shiver if they’re capable of doing so. If possible, give the person warm drinks (not alcohol) or high-energy foods, such as chocolate, to help warm them up. However, it’s important to only do this if they can swallow normally (ask them to give a cough to see if they can swallow). Once the person’s body temperature has increased, keep them warm and dry.It’s important to handle anyone with hypothermia gently and carefully.
I just went with instinct. I knew it wasn’t call 911 worthy, but it was serious. If I chose to ignore them, perhaps it may have been a different situation. There were a lot of homes in the area, so getting help wouldn’t have been an issue.
I wanted to write this because I’m impressed with our community. I love that between the efforts of once strangers to the couple that came to shore, we were able to handle this situation with ease and grace. We made efforts to warm, relocate, store the kayaks, drive the kayaks out to them, and touch base to make sure they were okay. I for one, was glad that I stumbled upon the couple.
After it was all said and done, the couple realizes that they have plenty to learn about the ocean and how to stay safe when enjoying water sports. This is a lesson that I could see realized in their eyes. They asked me to take their picture. They didn’t want to look at the camera. They want to remember this. It’s a learning experience. I quote the gentleman when I say, “As long as it doesn’t kill us, we’re always learning.”
Thanks for taking the time to read this.