Imagine being stuck in freezing water. No one can hear you, no one can see you. Yet life is going on around you; people are driving, talking, walking, and even laughing as they pass by, yet you go unseen.
This is what “Guy” an avid and long term angler felt on Wednesday after he fell into the ice while fishing off a dock in Wisconsin. “I was fishing for perch off the dock. When I stood up to switch rods, I must have lost my balance and fell in.” Explained Guy. “I went straight in, and the water pretty much sucked the air right out of my lungs. I was in the water about a half hour before you arrived.”
I know it’s taboo for writers to become characters in their own stories, and often times, this rule is justified; but when faced with the dangers of thin ice and the dilemma of witnessing someone in the water, one is allowed to break the rules.
I was heading to fish a local hot spot when I heard a feint and muffled yell. At first I thought it was workers in the machine shop up the road, but then after hearing it again, thought it was some sort of activity in the park across the river. It wasn’t until I got down to the docks that I saw an arm sticking out of the water grasping onto the dock next to me that I knew someone was in trouble. I needed to act quickly.
I approached the man (who later identified himself as “guy”) and tried to pull him out. After two attempts, I realized that he was just too heavy and quickly admitted defeat. I explained to Guy that I needed to leave and get help, and that I will be back in a bit; then ran up to the top of the hill, (the area for best cell reception) and called 911, explaining to them situation at hand.
After the call was made, I went back down to Guy to let him know help is on the way. I knew he was in bad shape because his breathing was getting more shallow and he was having a hard time keeping eye contact with me. I explained to him what was going on biologically, that his only goals were to keep breathing and focus on floating; and promised him if this situation was to go south, I was prepared to jump in and help him stay afloat at any cost.
A few minutes later, I could hear the sirens and told Guy that help was on the way. I could tell he fed off my play by play reports as the EMS people got closer. Once they arrived, I again parted ways with Guy to wave down the workers. Given our location, I knew it was difficult for the EMS guys to find us.
It took 4 EMS workers to lift guy out of the water, as he was heavy from all his clothes and dead weight. The entire side of the dock sank under the strain of 6 adults. Being trained in situations like this, I knew to stay out of the EMS workers way and that they will get my information later on.
Today, I just got off the phone with Guy. He is grateful to be alive and takes ice safety to a whole new level. According to Guy, he was in the hospital for 3 hours, and had a core body temperature of 95*. Some would say I am a hero, Guy would agree. Me, I feel like I just kept Guy company until help arrived. Guy told me that he was “on the verge of giving up” and that he was “getting tired and knew his time was up.”
The only thing I want you to take away from this is ice safety!
1) ALWAYS let people know where you are going
2) don’t be afraid to talk about an exit strategy in case things go south
3) Try to keep your cell phone easily accessible and dry either by zip lock bag, or small tupperware container
4) If you fall though, hang in there and don’t panic. Let your body adjust to the cold before doing anything. Then just focus on floating and breathing.
5) If you walk into a situation like that. DON’T BE A HERO! Admit defeat quickly and call 911. Even when you get your person out of the water, they will need medical attention.
5) watch Nathan Krusko’s ice safety videos!!!!
Fishermen don’t like talking about ice safety because “that guy” always falls in. The more you talk about it in the open, the more prepared you are when the real thing happens. Even the most hardcore anglers make a mistake that’s potentially life changing.