It was the summer of 2010. June to be precise. Summer school was over and me and my best friend took to our annual tradition of getting away from the rest of the world for a few days in order to recuperate so to say. This year we decided to go on a camping trip to the beloved southern aspects of Ohio. When we got there we set up and went about the business of camp but that was just beginning. It was a beautiful, sunny June day and things couldn’t be more perfect…or so I thought.
One month earlier.
Summer school was about to start, the other teachers and I were making final preparations for the classrooms and there I was chugging down Mt. Dew. Every day’s lunch consisted of McDonald’s and sweet tea so saturated in sugar I could feel it in my veins. Breakfast was some type of burritos and dinner was most likely a combination of Chinese, Chipotle, Sonic or something else deep-fried and smothered in cholesterol. I made a point to purchase the 36 pack of Mt Dew whenever I was at Wal-Mart even if I hadn’t finished the last one. Needless to say it was a great time to be alive.
And back to our regularly scheduled program.
As we started this trip off, we decided to make it one of those things where we turn our cell phones off and become one with nature. We took to the wild with a machete and sliced our way through taking note of our surroundings. Then…we found it.
It was a pond. And on the other side, chained to a small pier and dock was a paddle boat. Length wise, the pond was comparable to 3 laps of an olympic size pool. Not bad. I’d spent plenty time in the pool and three laps was nothing. There was only thing with me and water and here comes our first science lesson of the night.
This graphic describes me perfectly- in other words. An object that is more dense than the substance into which you submerge it sinks. And since I’m a muscular giant, this is why I don’t float and why my treading water is limited to the amount of time I can swim in place in the upright, transverse position. Typically this is about 90 seconds.
So Sam (because thats obviously who I’m with) says “hey, lets swim to the other side and get one of those paddle boats.” They were locked up and that should have been the first hint that this was a bad idea, but I agreed. So we jumped in and went for a swim. And that is was when everything changed.
About half way across I felt the beginnings of a cramp in my right leg. And then it got a little worse. So I stopped and got Sam’s attention. He was a little further ahead of me and he stopped too. I told him about the cramp and that I needed a second to shake it out. Okay, lets put 90 seconds on the clock and start it.
What seemed like a typical cramp soon turned into something much more excruciating when all of sudden, that cramp numbed my leg to the point where I couldn’t feel it at all. Panicked, I told Sam this wasn’t a normal cramp and that the best thing to do would be to turn back. He agreed and so we started swimming back the way we came.
I swam hard and fast and after a few minutes, I looked up to see how much distance I had closed and to my utter shock and disbelief I’d only gone a few feet. Not what I was expecting. So naturally more panic is setting and as I look up Sam is further ahead of me. I’m exhausted. I put everything I had into that swim and here I was running on fumes, no literally fumes. Remember that clock? As the last few moments of that 90 seconds wore off, I found it impossible to stay above water. I remember calling out, “Sam! Sam!” as if there was something he could do and with that, I sank.
As I sank deeper and deeper a series of thoughts flowed through my brain. I was in trouble. I was sinking and I was exhausted. I was panicking and I didn’t know what to do. The next two thoughts I had were geared towards saving my life.
First, I thought I would hit the bottom and then moon bounce my way back to shore. That thought quickly dissipated and then my second thought was that I was going to drown and then Sam would fish my body out of the pond and perform CPR and save me. (It should be worth noting that Sam at the time was dating a nurse whom he’s now happily married to)
When the feasibility of both of those plans fell apart, I came to the conclusion that I was going to die, the only problem is- I didn’t know how to drown. Of course I heard of people drowning but how did it actually happen? Was I supposed to wait until I passed out or was I supposed to breath in my lung’s capacity in water.
I was too impatient to wait to pass out so I attempted to breath in water. The only problem with that is my body refused to allow me to breathe in its attempt to keep me alive. So I tried again…and again…and again but to no avail. So now what?
I had no other options at this point and keep in mind this is all happening in real time. At this point I have no idea how long I’ve been under water and getting to the surface is a thought that is rapidly fading away.
Then I have a thought.
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
And that’s what does it. Then it happens. The tables turn on my increasingly deteriorating situation.
Upon hearing those words in my head, my sympathetic nervous system was overloaded with a massive dosage of norepinephrine and dopamine also known as adrenaline. My body immediately kicked into overdrive and I shot to the surface. Seeing Sam’s shocked expression, I swam- hard and fast. I swam harder than I ever had in my life and it burned. My lungs burned, my arms burned and in addition to the numbness- my legs also burned. It was excruciating. As I swam I thought of nothing but the promise of my Father to never leave nor forsake me. So I kept going. I pushed myself to the limits. With Sam in stride next to me I swam until every drop of adrenaline was depleted from my body. It was the workout of all workouts. Out of shape, in duress and way over my head.
As my energy reserve left my body I looked up. I could touch the reeds but there was not an ounce of energy left in my body. Not a single drop. There was nothing left. I reached for the shore, grabs reeds, pulled, but caught nothing but mud and leaves. I had come so far only to lose. I dug my nails deep in the earth, but there was no purchase. As my strength faded once again, with a hand full of moss and hope, I sank.
And just as my face leapt beneath the surface of the water, Sam’s arm reached down and pulled me up. I’m a big guy, and soaking wet and he was only able to get my torso onto land, but it was enough. I was alive. I breathe like I’d never done so before. It was a heavy and wretched breathing as if my lungs were expanding to full capacity and depleting with each breath. My body needed oxygen so bad that I made noises I’ve never heard from another human. It was incredulous. But I was alive.
For 25 minutes, I lay there in the fetal position and breathe. It took me nearly an hour to regain my energy enough that with Sam’s assistance I could get back to camp, and it felt like I had to learn to walk all over again. I later asked Sam what he was thinking and he was shocked that I’d spent so much time under water. I also asked him if he would have fished me out and performed CPR- well turns out he didn’t know CPR. There’s nothing quite like that experience. I almost drown and when you ask yourself- what is drowning? It’s to die by submersion in water. Drowning is death.
I always asked myself how I had managed to live and I come to the same conclusion every time. In my darkest moment, I called on my Father above to save my life–to preserve me, and He showed me something that I had not quite known before. He is the only one who has ever conquered death and He was the only one who could have ever saved me. And he did.
Stay Victorious My Friends.