I love being a woman.

I’m a woman who has experience being a wife, a mom, a student, a teacher, and a degreed business professional. I’ve traveled throughout the U.S. and have been to Europe, too, but am greatly fond of western Michigan and its beaches, and the entire Midwest region. My journey is relative to my time, of course. I’m a straight-laced conservative when it comes to education and career, yet a child of the 60’s; a hippie you might say, when it comes to enjoying life. It’s been quite a ride!

My favorite things are my grown children, Ashlee and Krystal, my Colonel hubby, Scott (retired from the military after nearly 30 years but continues to work a civilian job), my mother, Kathy (a pioneer for women who worked in the factory at General Motors from the early 60’s until retirement 27 years later – but who is first and foremost a gentle woman with a strong soul and my forever role model), my pets (Japanese Chin dogs Jake and Lucy, and my kitties, Bliss and Salem), beaches, dragonflies, hummingbirds, and other nature. I might seem complicated at times but truly love the simple things.

My little place in the world, that’s my blog. I’ll be sharing my thoughts about my life, my family, my pets, my job, and how I view the world. I hope you enjoy my stories, my sense of humor, and my insight. This is a chance for us to share that cup of coffee or tea in the morning or afternoon, and reach across the miles that might separate us, and gather close together to catch our breath and a laugh or two. Life is busy. And so are we! So let’s dive in together. And smell the roses, too.

Thanks for dropping by.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger: Near-Drowning in the Rapids

Scott and I were in Colorado in June. While there, we took our daughter, Krystal, and her boyfriend, Peter, whitewater rafting on the Poudre river Sunday, June 28. I have always had this on my bucket list and was so excited! The rafting company in Fort Collins offered rafting on class-two rapids on the lower Poudre and class-four rapids on the upper Poudre. Being first-time rafters, we selected to go on the milder class-two trip in anticipated of a fun day on the river. The rafting company has a photographer who takes photos and we purchased the photos shown below.        
Unfortunately, we were not informed that the river was extremely high this summer, and that it is very dangerous to be on the river whether upper or lower. The rafting company never mentioned this to us in our fifteen minute or so "briefing" we received shortly before embarking and signing a liability waiver. So when we got on the Poudre that day, we hit class three/four rapids within a few minutes, nearly capsizing the raft, tossing me out of the raft, our "expert" guide also tumbled into the water, and Scott fell in, too! It was the worst for me because I bounded out backwards and headfirst into the river, just missing a large boulder as you can see from the photos. The guide is pictured in blue and mentioned he arrived in Colorado "about a year ago" and gave us no indication how long he has been an "expert" guide on the Colorado river. Scott also fell overboard trying to grab me. I was in an orange and grey shirt, Scott was wearing a green shirt and Peter is pictured in the white shirt with red life jacket, while Krystal is wearing a black tank top  with red life jacket - Krystal and Peter were in the front of the raft. In one photo you see two red helmets in the water - Scott and me!    
Since this trip, I have learned that there are approximately 600 near drowning victims for every drowning; how many of these near drowning victims suffer complications or die afterwards?
The water was so powerful that Scott's water shoes were ripped off his feet once he hit the water! You can see the fear and exhaustion in Scott's face as he tries to get back on the raft while the top of my red helmet is barely visible in the water.  Scott is in good physical condition but the Poudre kicked his butt - he was exhausted from his minute or so ordeal yet. I went in before he did and was still underwater!                 
I was churned and spun by the forceful Rapids and face down, water swirling and churning through my nasal passages and mouth as I fought to hold my breath and push the water out. I can barely swim but this river can take down the strongest of swimmers, in fact, one 25-year old woman drowned the week before in this same river. We found out later that there have been several drownings on the Poudre this year. The life jackets we were given have a headrest on them, but that didn't keep me afloat because of the powerful rapids churning and trying to pull me under!                 
The water was barely 50-degrees but my body went into shock and survival mode so I did not feel the cold. I concentrated on trying to keep the water out and continued to fight for air.  Amazingly, I did not panic but remembered to put my body in the "V" position as instructed by the raft crew right before the trip; they said if you fall in the water, to point your legs and arms upward, which supposedly will help cause minimal body damage from all the rocks and help others to attempt to grab an appendage. At this point however, I had taken quite a beating and was losing steam from the pounding water. I didn't know my body had drifted around the boat and was desperately trying to breathe  -- then a hand grabbed mine; it was  the hand of my younger daughter Krystal who I found out later had fearlessly leapt around the boat trying to save me. I felt her hand and was so disoriented that I had no clue whose it was, but it felt like HOPE to me in this situation. I clung to it. 
Krystal is in good physical shape but is a very slim woman with average upper body strength, yet she hung on to me when stronger men had just failed. I am so proud of my daughter. 
I do not believe this would have turned out so well had Krystal not been there and acted so selflessly. I was going down over and over and could easily have been washed away with the current in the dangerous class three / four rapids. The pictures tell it all. In one photo you can see Krystal holding my hand while just the top of my red helmet is visible. Being a mom, I look back on this photo and marvel that the baby I had in 1986 actually grew up to be such a wonderful and loving daughter, and actually saved my life.
I didn't plan on adding body surfing in the rapids to my bucket list and was told that I have joined the Poudre swim team! Scott bought me a tee shirt that says "the river called and I answered." Little did I realize, I was not out of danger yet. As typical with a near-drowning experience, the body takes in so much water in and around the lungs that complications arise a day or so later. The next day I wasn't feeling so good and during Monday night's sleep, my lungs were wheezing and whistling. Tuesday morning we headed for the med center. They took x-rays and told  me to head for the emergency room. My breathing was labored and I could barely take a step. I was going downhill fast. The lungs are very powerful but fragile when illness strikes. The Poudre as with many rivers, is full of bacteria, so taking in water can be deadly in many ways.
I was running a fever and in the 95-degrees Colorado heat had been walking around with a sweater on. At the emergency room, my blood pressure and heart rate were extremely high, and I was immediately put on fluids and oxygen. After a breathing treatment, more x-rays were taken. I had a wonderful physician, Dr. Bonnie, who told me she was from Chicago. I told her I felt better already, knowing that Chicago has so many terrific and talented physicians. Dr. Bonnie mentioned a particular "number" that was going up after the first bag of fluids and so she ordered that I stay in the hospital overnight. I was given more fluids and antibiotics and treated for pneumonia. My fever broke during the night.
I shared my photos of the raft trip on my iPhone with my night nurse (his name was Scott), and he said he is very familiar with the Poudre and that in his opinion, we were on class-four rapids and not class-two that we had signed up for! The night nurse also shared his own near-drowning story of the river with me. He, too, had nearly drowned and said it was "terrifying" and that it was traumatically stressful -- and that he couldn't even look at a kiddie pool afterwards without reliving his horrible ordeal!  We talked about how irresponsible the rafting company had been because they failed to inform us of the current conditions of the river. Several other hospital personnel also were stunned that we had been rafting in the river and said the current conditions are not safe! Since this trip, I have learned that there are approximately 600 near drowning victims to every drowning; how many of these near drowning victims suffer complications or die afterwards?
Colorado news stations and newspapers have published many stories this summer warning of the summer 2015 conditions, but people from out of town do not see or hear about this until it is too late! Raft companies should be made accountable and be subjected to higher standards so that patrons are better informed of the day's water conditions. As it stands now, once you sign a waiver, you might be signing your life away!