In July of 2014, I was more scared for my life than I had ever been before. My boyfriend and I were on a road trip with my grandparents. We had decided to walk from the RV to the beach, which was less than half a mile. The previous day, a riptide had carried a teenager out to sea. They still hadn’t been found by the time we decided to embark on our adventure.
A riptide carried me out on Carolina beach and my significant other (We’ll call him Sig) nearly drowned trying to save me. We had gone to the beach for the weekend with my grandparents and Sig decided we needed to walk the 2 minutes to the beach while my grandparents rested from the long drive.
We walked to the beach and secured our clothes and towel onto the wooden pier off the boardwalk, tying them onto a beam so they wouldn’t hit the sand. We decided to get in the water up to our shoulders, no further. Two teenagers had gone missing the day before after a riptide drug them out to sea. I joked with Sig, saying it would be horrible if we shared their fate. Sig insured me that this couldn’t happen during high tide when the waves push you towards the beach. We saw the lifeguard riding past on a four wheeler, patrolling the beach. He passed by about every 5 minutes or so.
That’s when it hit us… A huge wave knocked my sunglasses off, which I surprisingly caught with my other hand. Sig’s glasses flew from his face and he luckily managed to catch them as well. After doing a few flips underwater, I resurfaced. To my dismay, I realized that I could no longer stand on my feet. The sand was no longer accessible to my toes. We laughed nervously and began paddling towards the shore. Another wave hit, pulling us under and even further out. I started to get a stitch in my side from holding my breath while being pulled under repeatedly. I have never been a good swimmer and my decreased lung capacity was not helping.
I looked at Sig, fear apparent on my face, and told him I couldn’t make it to shore. He chuckled briefly before a look of horror began to creep onto his face. He realized that I was not joking and he thought I was going to drown. I yelled at him to swim towards shore and get help, otherwise we were both going to drown. I could see him hesitate, trying to determine if he would lose me forever if he left me. I knew he wouldn’t be able to make it with me slowing him down, so I told him to go because it was our only chance. Sig began to panic and tried to swim against the current. I couldn’t use my arms to swim anymore, so I decided to flip onto my back and float.
A few waves hit me as I tried to catch my breath, an anxiety attack was about to hit and I couldn’t breathe. I was crying now, lifting my head up to look at the beach. Sig was far away and looked like a slightly bigger ant than the people on the beach. The waves weren’t carrying me under anymore, but I still couldn’t breathe and I was being dragged out further than I have ever been before. I prayed for the first time in a long time, floating on my back, asking God for our lives to be saved. Promising to be a better person for myself, Sig, and my family if we survived. Sig’s frantic screams for help floated back to me on the wind. I finished my prayer while looking up at the sky. “I’m going to die,” I kept thinking. “I’m going to die and drown alone at sea.” I hate the ocean, why was I even out there?
Oddly enough, I heard screams of relief shortly after this and a bystander was able to get Sig back to shore. Later he would tell me that the white Coca-Cola visor I had given him had saved us. He had been frantically waving it with his arms and someone finally noticed. The man swam out to save Sig on his boogie-board. I had drifted down the beach and hearing him getting saved gave me strength and hope . I flipped over and frantically started paddling towards the lifeguard that was paddling towards me. When he finally reached me, I collapsed. I couldn’t stand on my own two feet. I was exhausted, breathing hard, and wide-eyed panic was evident on my face.
I staggered towards Sig at the beach, three medics assessing him. I told the medic I was a nurse, I was fine and was just beginning to have a panic attack. They gave me oxygen, Sig was still being assessed. His oxygen was low, he swallowed too much water. He was hypothermic (low temperature) and needed to go to the hospital. I rode in the front of the ambulance, glad that they would notify my grandparents and allow me to ride with them, as this was usually prohibited. I felt sick, but I was fine overall. Scared, but fine.
Sig was hospitalized overnight due to the amount of salt water he inhaled. Salt water inhalation can dehydrate you and make your lungs collapse on themselves as water is pulled into the lungs to get rid of the salt. They put a warming blanket on him, gave him medication to help him cough up the salt water, and gave him warmed fluids to raise his core temperature. He saved my life and without him, I would be dead. There is no way that debt can ever be repaid. I hate the beach, more so than before.
We went back the next day to see if our clothes and his glasses were still there. Someone had set them up on the beach, the towels positioned around his stuff. It looked like a memorial in case he didn’t make it, but luckily he did. I wish I knew the name of the person that saved his life in order to thank them. Unfortunately, I will never know. I am forever grateful to him for saving us both.
Now, I never really believed in God, but so many little things went right that led to our survival…. So I’m blessed even though I can’t always see it…