Accident Database

Report ID# 40372

  • Caught in a Natural Hydraulic
  • Heart Attack / Heart Failure
  • Near Drowning
  • Other

Accident Description

From Boatertalk

I was not on this trip and the person said I could post it here for all of us to learn from. I was on another trip long ago where someone was also having a heart attack and lied to me. Be persistent in helping the person. 

"I first want to thank John Tempest and JP for saving my life. Now if you're interested, I going to tell you how I escaped death twice in one day. 

Last Saturday I was kayaking on the Chattooga River Whitewater. I have run this river over 400 times. Beautiful day. We're the first group on the river because John needed to get home early. John named this day, Uneventful Day on the River. River is running at a great level. 1.7 on the bridge gauge. A fun but intense level. Everything is run-able but very pushy. We get down to Woodale Shoals. Woodale has a class 5 hole and the rest is pretty much class 3+. John is going far right to the cheat line. I hate the cheat line so I decide I'm going to catch the eddy up top and run the right side of the hole. Probably done this line 100 times. As I get ready to go, JP in coming in the eddy. So I stop so we don't collide. I'm at the edge of the pourover, and decide just to slide over the edge. I hit a rock at the bottom of the hole and get bounced left towards the meat of the hole. I thought I had cleared the hole and was just fine. About that time the hole grabs my boat and starts pulling me into the hole. I'm back paddling with all my might. Only to realize I'm losing this fight. So I decide I have to go into the hole.

Now when I was younger, we'd play Woodale at lower water levels. so I know how to get out of the hole. But this isn't lower water level. This is a mean nasty hole. With a backwash of probably 10 feet. So I surf the hole to the left side of the hole where I know water is coming out of the hole. The front of my boat hits the wave that is going downstream and spins my front to the right. The hole grabs the back of my boat and pulls me back into the hole. The back hits the waterfall and it stands me straight up in the air. Now I know this is a good thing. I have to ride this wheelie out of the hole. I get about have way out and i turn over. I immediately roll up. The current turns me over again. I try to roll up again only to get window shaded. Now I know I'm not coming out of this hole in my boat, it's just too sticky. So I decide I need to wet exit. As I tried to grab my release handle, I can't reach it. Then I realize the hole has pulled me out of my boat. I pop up and think I'm out of the hole. I'm facing upstream towards the hole. My boat that is eight feet long is between me and the pore over. So I try to push off my boat to escape the hole. Only to realize the hole is pulling me back into the meat of the hole. So I take a deep breath because I don't know when I'm going to get chance to breath again. Now I'm sucked into the hole. I'm tumbling around. I don't know what's up and what's down. I just know I have to go deep to catch the water going out of the hole if I was going to live. 

Now JP and John see that I'm in trouble. They jump out of their boat and trying to get a rope to me. According to them, they never saw me come up for air. I realize that I can't get deep because of the aerated hole and my life jacket. So I try to take off my life jacket so I can get deep. No success. I'm trying to get another breath of air but my face never clears the surface of the water. So I just have to keep on fighting. The hole has pulled me back into the meat of the hole and beside the rock that the water is poring over. Good I finally know where I am. I try to ball up to go deep again. All I do is tumble. I'm talking to myself and say I guess this is it. I go limp to take the rest of my beating. About that time I feel the hole release me. I'm out of the hole. So I say to myself, you have to fight to survive. I pull my head up to get a breath of air. 

Now I'm in the main current of Woodall Shoals. I realize that the hole has pulled my neoprene bathing suit off to my ankles. I'm about to loose my bathing suit. So I reach down and grab the bathing suit with my right hand. Now it time to let the beating begin on all the rocks. I'm trying to get into an eddy so I can catch my breath. No luck, I'm going down stream and the river owns me. As I'm holding onto my bathing suit I'm butt naked and going through the next 400 yard of class 3+ rapids. I come to the next deep hole and I know I'm going over so I take a deep breath and go deep into another hole. Luckily I went deep and came right out of this hole and kept going down stream. Now the shale is starting to get shallow, so I'm hitting lots of rocks. I know that I have to be very careful about standing up or I'm going to get foot entrapment. I tried to stand up and felt my foot go between two rocks. So I face down stream to release my foot. The water is getting shallower. So I get my feet facing down stream. I'm bouncing off all the rocks butt naked. There's a lot of rough moss on those rocks. lol. Finally I come to a stop. The beating is finally over. 

Now I'm trying to catch my breath, but my chest is killing me. I'm trying so hard to breath. I have a lot of pain in my chest. I'm gasping for air each breath. I'm having a heart attack but don't know what a heart attack feels like. JP has now caught up to me. He runs up the river and crosses the river in a tough current to make sure I'm ok. As he holds onto me. I'm still trying to catch my breath. He makes sure I'm ok. I tell him I'll be fine, go get my boat. John makes it to me and tells me their going to take care of me. I'm now struggling to get my bathing suit on but the current keeps pulling it off of me. For those that don't know, I had both of my knees replaced 13 and 11 months ago, so it's hard for me to stand up. I finally struggle to my feet to put my bathing suit back on. I have to sit down to catch my breath. As I'm sitting there I just can't seem to stop hurting. I finally as John to help me out of the river. He walks in front of me while I hold onto his life jacket. We make across. Immediately I have to sit down, I'm out of breath and my chest is killing me. We finally make to the bottom of the rapid where my boat is. At this point, JP informs me that I don't have a skirt. So I know this is where I get out. My chest is killing me but now I can breath. 

I convince the guys to go to the lake to get the truck and come back for me. They have about four miles of whitewater and two miles of flat water to get to the truck. We decide that there should be more people turning up since we are the first to get on the river that day. They paddle off, going to get some transportation. Now I'm breathing a little easier so I decide to walk up to Woodall Shoals hole and see if my skirt pops out. I'm having a tough time walking but am determined to find my spray skirt. As I'm walking up, I see a ranger. I think, I should ask him to take me to the hospital. He has a radio. He ask me if I'm fine. I'm embarrassed that I just swam Woodall. So i tell him I'm fine. I'm not. I now have a plack blocking flow in my heart but I'm still in denial that I'm having a heart attack. He says the rafts will here in a few minutes and they can help me if I need help. I make it to the hole to look for my skirt. No sign of the skirt. I watch the rafts run the cheat on the far right side of the river and to the end of the rapid where they takeout and care up to the waiting bus in the parking lot. I'm thinking I need to ask them for help but still to embarrassed to admit I swam Woodale. 

I make it back to my boat. I have to lay down in the sand. Some kayakers paddle up. Immediately they ask if I'm OK. I tell them I swam Woodall. They say that must have been ugly. I acknowledge that it was real ugly. Shane offers to take my boat up to the parking lot for me. I said no, my friends will be here in a minute to help me. It's been over an hour since JP and John left. I knew it would take them about two hours to get back to me. Shane carries up his friends boat to the parking lot. They offer to take me to the hospital. I said I'll be alright. Twenty minutes Shane returns. I Tell him, I hate to bother you but would you carry my boat up for me. He was happy to help. He grabs my boat and paddle. I ask him if I can have my paddle so I have a walking stick. He says no problem. He walks off caring my boat. 

Now it's about a half a mile up hill the whole way to the parking lot. I don't think I can make it but I have to try. I'm taking baby steps to get up the hill. I get about a 100 yards and I have to sit down to catch my breath. I get back up and try to go to the top of the hill. I begin coughing. Now I start to throw up. I know I'm in trouble. I think when I get home I need to Google heart attack to see if throwing up is a symtom. Shane makes it back to me. I ask him if I can hold onto him to get up the hill. Some more kayakers are coming up the hill. The offer to take me to the hospital. I assure them I'm fine. My buddies will be here in a minute. I make it to the top of the parking lot and lay down by my boat. Everyone is extremely nice to me and offer to help me. I say I'm okay. 

Finally JP and John arrive. They puts my stuff in the truck. We get in the truck and I start to cry. I tell the guys I don't want to be a problem to them but will they please take me to the hospital. We make a plan for John to drive my car and JP will follow us to the hospital. John and JP live in the opposite direction of Clayton, Ga. We go the put in and grab my car. I help the guys tie my boat onto my car so we can go. 

I haven't been to the hospital in Clayton in over twenty years. So were start going to the place we thought the hospital was. We can't find the hospital. They have built a new hospital and we don't know where it is. Finally after looking for 40 minutes we find the hospital. They take me back immediately to a room. Their hooking me up to all types of machines. JP explains to them that I almost drowned. The doctor looks at me for a few minutes and leaves. The nurses start to give me pain medicine. My chest is killing me. They tell me to put this pill under my tongue to dissolve. On the second pill I look at the nurse and asked is this nitro. She says yes. I said so I'm having a heart attack. She says she has to get the doctor. The doctor returns and says, you're having a heart attack. Turns around and leaves.

The nurse are talking about moving me to Gainesville, Ga. I start to cry. I know I can't drive to Gainesville and now way I can survive in an ambulance. The nurse goes out of the room to get the doctor. I can hear her yelling at the doctor to get back in there and explain to me what is going on. I'm scared and don't know what is happening. The doctor comes in says we're life flighting you to Gainesville. Turns around and walks out of the room. So I turn to the nurse and said this would be my first helicopter ride. Not exactly the ride I had in mind. It takes about 30 minutes to get me to NE GA Medical Center. They take me right to the cath lab. There the doctor is able to take out the blockage and insert a stint. I asked the Cardiologist if this was the widow maker. He said I don't like that term but yes, I'm lucky to be alive. 

There are a lot of funny stories that happened at the hospital that I'll share later. If you read the whole story, I hope I didn't bore you to death.  I am a very lucky man that God was looking after me last Saturday. I didn't listen to him sending help to me that I kept turning down. If your going to be stupid, you have to be tough. I was pretty stupid. 
Enjoy every moment. We never know when it will be our last."

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