When the weather gets hot outside everyone tries to enjoy outdoor activities. It was a camping adventure with my husband, sister, niece and nephew. It was a beautiful summer weekend, August 17, 2002 at Clays Park in Canal Fulton, Ohio. I have never been a person to say: “I can’t” until I try it. I wish I said: “No” or “I can’t” when it came to that water slide.
All the water slides have warnings. I didn’t think any of these warnings applied to myself. Why would I? My youngest sister is also a rehabilitation registered nurse and she encouraged me to do the water slide at least once. I had faith in her judgement…at least this one time.
The most difficult part I thought would be trying to walk up to the top of the slide. Short of breath, it took me some time to get up to the top. It was so hard, I stopped several times to rest. I already knew I would only do the slide once, because it would be impossible for me to walk up twice.
I tried to live as normal of life as possible after my TBI, but little did others understand my struggles with the basic functioning of life. Breathing was a problem. I was short of breathe all the time with the slightest bit of exertion. Somewhere in my mind I felt like I needed to act “okay” since I looked “okay”. I think it’s also an expected behavior by society. If you look good, you are fine!
While the girls were off to the water activities my husband and nephew were enjoying their first fishing experience. This fishing trip lead to my nephews first catch in his life at 8 years.
We laughed and joked while we stood in line at the slide. It was to be my first experience on a water slide. I had to try everything at least once. My niece was only 5 years old. My niece and sister went down the slide before I did. They were waiting at the bottom.
It was my turn on the slide. I don’t remember anything for a brief period. I lost consciousness just as I sat down. That wasn’t unusual for me. I have been loosing consciousness since my injury in 1991 but nothing could pinpoint the cause. I just knew it lead to many injuries over the years. So the cause was unknown, but the effects were devastating. It didn’t stop my life, and I didn’t fear anything.
I came to as I was under water in just 2 feet deep. So, how do you think people drown in 2 feet of water? I’m not sure of others, but I can explain what I felt and what was happening.
Of course at the time you are not thinking this is just 2 feet deep. How would I have remembered that? All I could think of was to get out of the water. I couldn’t find the top of the water. I kept trying to find the top but I couldn’t figure it out. I couldn’t call for help. I was already under the water.
My sister and niece were standing at the bottom of the water slide and at first to them it appeared I was just playing around. After a minute or so my sister realized something was terribly wrong and said she started screaming for the lifeguards.
As per her report she said my body was floating upward with my spine arched backward and my head totally emerged. I struggled to find my way out and I could not. I couldn’t find the top of the water. I was trying and I just couldn’t find it. Then finally I had this peacefulness that overcame me and my struggle was ending.
Damn! Then I was pulled from the water by the lifeguards. It was my sister that needed to alert the lifeguards that something was desperately wrong. It’s frightening to know that lifeguards need to keep a close eye on their job all the time even in 2 feet of water and whether it’s a child or an adult.
When I was pulled from the water I began to vomit and spit out water. I guess that was a good sign. I refused immediate medical intervention, but there were a few people who did check on me several times as I sat nearby for a while. Later, I laid on the beach while my sister and niece went swimming. I had no strength to walk back to the campground.
When we headed back to the campground I had already decided I did not want to say anything to my husband. I was never a complainer, so there really wasn’t anything to talk about. That evening my husband was complaining about muscle spasms in his neck. I said nothing.
During the night he still had muscle spasms and I got up with him to walk to the toilets. On our way back, I realized I showed no empathy. I finally told him what happened. He wasn’t happy that I did not tell him. I certainly had no desire to spoil anyones camping trip.
I probably would not have mentioned anything until we arrived home, but I was loosing my patience with other small complaints. When we arrived home I was treated for near-drowning episode, had aspiration pneumonia and started a round of antibiotics and other medications.
Returning to aquatic exercise was unsettling. I knew I needed to, it was the only physical activity I could tolerate and yet the fear of this episode was surreal. After about a week of aquatic exercise I did feel better. I never entered into the water after that without a life belt on. An entire decade later, I finally feel comfortable to enter a pool area without a life belt. I exercise by a huge water slide everyday now, but I’m not on the water slide!