In 1982 I died on a beach in Southern California

Clinically, I did die.  Thanks to some great friends, and an overweight Chief Petty Officer named Dennis Bucklew (sp), I didn’t stay dead. Dennis swam out and dragged me back to shore – an amazing feat for someone of his girth. My friends did CPR – a not-so-amazing thing for people that did it every day of their lives.

We were having a party on Coronado Beach – a bunch of Doctors Nurses, and Navy Corpsman. I have no clue what we were celebrating.

I borrowed a surf-board and paddled out to a catamaran about 1500 feet off shore.  I made friends with the couple on the boat even though (or maybe because of the fact) they were completely wasted.  It took a long time to paddle out, and I was exhausted.  As they laid back to collect sun, I laid back to collect sleep.  It soon got a bit dark, and a large vessel passed close enough to us to turn over the boat.

It wasn’t completely dark yet – just that muddy kind of dark that happens minutes before the sun sets completely.

When the boat flipped I was on the pontoon that went skyward.  I did not have a life jacket on.  The pontoon kicked me far enough away from the boat that when it flipped over the very same pontoon hit me in the head, knocking me goofy, if not unconscious.

The next thing I knew I was on the beach, surrounded my all of my friends from the Trauma Research Unit – Doctors, Nurses, Medics, Anesthesiologists, etc.  Suddenly a woman came rushing into the crowd pushing them away from me yelling, “I’m a Nurse, let me in here”.  She was frantic.  I know she was trying to help, but it was a bit crazy for her to be butting into this particular crowd of health care providers – I can’t imagine that I could have been in any better hands than theirs.

Finally I remember being loaded into an ambulance. I passed out, but minutes later I came to long enough to see that I was still in an ambulance, and now  crossing the Coronado Bridge – and I promptly threw up tons of salt water.  It was three days later before I was breathing well enough on my own to be totally removed from sedation (I had been on a ventilator for almost two days).

In keeping with the theme of my previous posts, where I share how fucking stupid I was with lessons I learned:

I over-estimated my abilities. I failed to rely on people that were there, and offered help – even before I started out alone to the Catamaran.  I ignored people that questioned my ability.

Since then I have learned that there are few things in life I can totally do on my own – I rely on people.  I acknowledge and leverage expertise wherever I can find it.  I understand that my goal is to get to the boat not to prove that I can get their alone.  There is little in life you can do alone that is worthwhile.  I started learning at this time about team-building, and relying on a wide variety of people with different skill sets to help me get the job done.  I started to learn than my job wasn’t to get to the boat – it was to build a team that could get me safely to the boat, and back.

The Navy taught me a lot about the reliance on teams, but it was only later in life that I learned to build teams.  THAT is fun!

Rob