The pool is my sanctuary. It’s the place I go to when I need to carve out some self-care time. The pool opens at 10am and that’s what time I usually go. It’s quiet. I’m usually the only one there. If I didn’t have day job things to do, I’d be at the pool all day. Typically I’ll stay an hour or so.
I’ve lived here for 2 years and my pool time has always been uneventful. I’d swim, sit in the wading pool, or just lay on a lounge chair with tunes from my wireless headset.
On August 6, it was just like every other uneventful pool day. Until it wasn’t.
This day I sat in the wading pool for a bit and then went to “my spot” (same lounge chair I use every time). I put headphones in and listened to my tunes.
About 15 minutes later, something just felt wrong. I was dizzy, had a hard time breathing, stopped sweating, I was nauseous, and felt disoriented.
I caught the eye of the lifeguard and waved him over. I could hardly talk and I knew I would pass out if I tried to get up. He knew this was abnormal for me to wave him over. He rushed over and I told him I needed an ambulance.
He ran to the phone to call 911 (as a side note I always wondered why the pool had a phone on the wall when everyone has cell phones, but now I see why they have it). I lost consciousness and I was told later that he hung up on 911 to run back over to me.
When I came to, he was holding my hand and praying. He kept telling me to look at him, to keep my eyes open, and to stay with him because EMS was on their way.
I felt myself fading and tried really hard to keep my eyes open. Then the lifeguard said “Hear those sirens? They’re coming for you”.
That was the last thing I heard him say because I lost consciousness again.
When I came to again, I only heard fragmented words:
“Another gauze pad, she won’t stop bleeding” (I found out later they did a finger stick but I have no memory of this)
“Stay with me, Rachel”
I lost consciousness again and did not wake up until I was in the Emergency Room.I wasn’t conscious when I was loaded into the ambulance or during transport, or even entering the hospital.
After multiple tests, it turned out to be heat stroke and benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV).
After the ordeal, I went to the pool. I wasn’t allowed to be in the sun or go in the pool, but I did head over to the lifeguard room, knowing the lifeguard who helped me was working. I wanted to thank him in person. He gave me a big hug and told me how worried he was.
The way I understand the series of events after talking to him is that he felt panicked when I waved him over because that’s out of the ordinary. He called 911 and when he saw I lost consciousness, he hung up on them and ran back over to me. He kept trying to wake me up. When the medics arrived, one of them grabbed an umbrella from a table in the corner and tried to shield me from the sun. The other one did a finger stick and couldn’t get the bleeding to stop. He told the other medic that I was clammy, my blood pressure was low, my pulse ox was low, and that I kept fading in and out. They put in an IV, which I have no memory of. I found out later that it didn’t stop bleeding either. One medic put his business card in my pool bag so I could update him on how I was doing when I was feeling better. I e-mailed him the next day with an update and to thank the EMS team that helped me. The lifeguard, whose name is Danny, told me that I parked my car in the right spot- in front of a security camera and he kept an eye on my car, knowing it would be a while before my husband was able to pick it up and drive it home.
I thought I was doing all the right things. I had a large water bottle to stay hydrated. I had on sunscreen.
What I didn’t know is that if you’re in the sun after being in the water, you get extra overheated.
So I went from this
in less than an hour.
The reason I’m telling you all of this is because someone saved my life and I want to save yours by raising awareness about heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and summer safety.