death at a lake

Written Sunday evening.

Today I saw a man die. Or maybe he as already dead. And another one remained under the water to surface later – most likely when his body becomes bloated and rises to the surface. Today two men died. Needlessly.

We all needed a day of rest, a relaxing afternoon. So we headed to a lake about 45 minutes from Ndola. The plan was to relax on the grass, read books, play games, take naps, and have a late lunch. I talked, I read, I napped, and I was reading again when Erin, having heard of an accident, said, “Do you know CPR?” Yes.

I, who do not run, sprinted barefoot after her down the path around the lake. A minute or two later we came to the scene. A man was down, was surrounded, was unconscious, possibly vomited lake water, and was non-responsive. I bent down to help. The man instructing said he was a medical doctor. Then a man next to him said he was a nurse. Yet it was wrong. All wrong. If he had vomited, his head should have been on his side so he did not take it back in again. His head was not tilted back. Compressions in the wrong spot. The doctor said he could not do anything – there was no first aid kit, no adrenaline. But that is not what was wrong. I tried to speak up, to say something. But he was a medical doctor and he wanted to go to the clinic.

Normally, I am loud and I take charge. But somehow, not today. For some reason, I tried to help, but I did not take charge. I demonstrated once. I explained. But he was a medical doctor. I am not a medical professional, but I know what was done was wronge. The unnamed man, possibly then a corpse, but it seemed his spirit was not gone, was loaded into the car and driven away. A man in a murky lake was still down, buried under water. I offered to swim, to dive a grid to find his body. No mask, no googles, could be found. Nothing. And so I stayed on shore. As we left an hour later, the fire truck came screaming towards the lake. I wondered, Do the firemen know how to swim?

It started with five men in a canoe. Five men who were clearly not good swimmers, if swimmers at all. I do not know why, but the canoe tipped. I know that some of these men were rescued by some teenagers, some children, who recognized the problem and helped. One man was dragged to shore and died there, and one man died in the lake. Three men lived.

Life is a fragile thing. So so fragile. This is easy to forget when we are not surrounded by death. Or when those who die are old or have long been ill. But accidents happen and people die. People die because of infections and disease, because of accidents and preventable things.

So many things can be said about today. What I choose to say is that what happened today was preventable. Today cannot be changed, but tomorrow can be. And so this is what I ask you: Do you know how to swim? Do your children know how to swim? Do you know basic first aid and CPR? If you answered No to any of these questions, please, please change your answer. You have the power to change your answer. It might not be easy, and it might mean facing a fear. But, tomorrow, it could mean life or death. Today people did not know what to do and people needlessly died. Please be prepared so that tomorrow’s accident does not happen or so that, when it does, you know what to do. Please.

3 Replies to “death at a lake”

  1. The summer before I headed to college a boy in our youth group drowned. He was a good athelete and knew how to swim, so it was strange. I was not at the lake with the group that day. I felt guilty because I was a trained life guard and could have done something had I been there. I don’t know that this one could have been prevented, but it was tragic and it made me realize at 18 how fragile life is and that I needed to say ‘I love you’ more frequently to those I love because you never know when it may be the last. I love you friend!

  2. Thinking of you as you continue to process this horrific experience. We never knew when we moved to the Philippines what all we would experience but we never thought it would involve what Thomas experienced at the local hospital. Trusting that we never need medical care here…So many in the States complain about health care but few grasp the blessing of the resources available to them compared to other countries.

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