And here it came. September 1st, supposed to be the most calm month of the summer to work as a Lifeguard at the beach.
The sea was altered from what it was on the day before. Waves crumbled on themselves and clashed against the rocks in the distance, allowing for small lakes to be relatively safe beyond these very rocks, towards the shoreline.
In September I’m in charge of two beaches, the northern and southern outposts of the Tourism beach.
It was past 10:30 in the morning, yellow flags displayed until the eye could see in both North and South directions.
I was watching my appointed areas from a location above the rocks closest to the shoreline as well as an area that is without an appointed Lifeguard (legally, because if something happens, the Lifeguards adjacent to that unsurveilled area must go to the rescue).
All of a sudden I saw a woman being dragged by the current at the unsurveilled area, when before she was at the shoreline, completely safe from harm.
Immediately I jumped to the sand and circled around the rocks, signaling my colleague for help, and then dropped my bag and t shirt in order to enter the sea.
I swam towards her and my colleague was right behind me. I reached the woman (in the middle of her thirties and fat, very fat) and I handed her my rescue can, which she hold onto with both hands. I told her to not let go of it and to swim ashore and then proceeded to move her back. My colleague brought with her the rescue belt and I believe she was trying to put it around the victim which was a difficult task in itself without counting with the waves crashing down on us, leading us against the sharp rocks filled with mussels. I swam back nevertheless and disregarded the face of despair in the woman’s face. For a moment we were actually going to shore, but then the set came and I was overwhelmed by the waves and the replicas of the clash against the rock which came back at us. While this happened, I ceased to see the victim and the other Lifeguard as well.
From here on out my chronological track of events gets weird. I remember standing on the rocks, looking to the shoreline and seeing a Marine who patrols the area. He was at the phone and I signaled him twice to come and help. Then I believe I was pulled away from where I stood by the stream and the victim. In between the waves and some salt water down my throat, I continued to swim towards the shoreline but after a set of waves, the victim had let go of the rescue can, and was dragged ahead by the stream.
I was struggling. At this point, I thought that I wouldn’t make it even if I wanted to escape myself. The waves knocked the three of us into the rocks and I was feeling a strange sickness inside me. Luckily the Marine had come to the rescue, he had climbed to the top of the rocks at our side with a rod. I don’t remember if I heard him, but I saw the rod next to me, so it probably meant that he wanted me to go away first. I took the help and I placed my feet against the rock nearby so that the waves could not throw me against it. Once safer, I made my way to the shoreline, tumbling here and there, completely disoriented.
Once there, a man gave me water and after reorganizing my thoughts and watching the state of the rescue I noticed that the victim was unconscious. I made my way to my bag on the sand, grabbed my phone and called 112 (The emergency number at Portugal). Once I was sure that an ambulance was on the way I made my way to the rock where the Marine was on and at that time, somehow he pulled the victim and the Lifeguard up the rock. There were two more people there helping him I think and he then began CPR maneuvers on the victim on top of the rock. Once I got there, the look on the victim’s face surely indicated to me that she was more on the other side than on the one that I was at.
The tide was rising and the waves began to cover the top of the rock where we stood. An ambulance was already on the way so we needed to get the victim back to the shoreline, away of the reach of the water. She weighed more than a hundred kg. Someone brought a rescue board and we placed the victim on top of it and moved her on top of it. More than six adult men were there, moving her across the rocks, risking their lives to transport the woman to a safe place. It was hard and the waves did not give any pause. Somewhere along the way we lost balance and the woman fell from the board slightly, we had to stop and correct her position so that we could move on.
Once in dry sand, the woman was placed out of the reach of the waves and the paramedics were already coming with defibrillators. There was a multitude of people around, watching the paramedics doing their best to reanimate the woman who fell victim to the treacherous currents. I knew ever since I saw the Marine performing CPR on her that the chances for the woman were practically null. After a while, I moved away from the confusion, certain of the outcome that would follow. My first aquatic rescue, resulted in the victim’s death and I and the other Lifeguard barely escaped with the help of the Marine.
Now I’m dealing with the aftermath of it and recovering from many scratches on my feet and legs. I took the day after to recover and I’m heading back to work tomorrow.
If it wasn’t by the Marine’s help, you wouldn’t be looking at this blog entry as of this moment. Not in the slightest… I’m almost certain, that I could have died there.
Thank you to all the people who reached out to me, checking up on me through different and various ways. Without your support, I’d be a lot more overwhelmed.