No Hero

I’ve been watching the fascinating clips by Dr. Sanjay Gupta this past week on his “Cheating Death” series that he’s using to promote his book, “Cheating Death: The Doctors and Medical Miracles that Are Saving Lives Against All Odds.”

The clip from last night showed how a woman trapped in cold water without air for over two hours was brought back to life (she is currently a radiologist in a hospital in Norway, so brain function must be pretty good). Her core body temp was 56 degree F when she was rescued, so that makes her the coldest person on record to survive. You can find that article :::here::: on CNN.

It made me think for just a moment, wow, people who’ve lost loved ones in cold drowning accidents must be having some serious “what if” moments right now.

Then it hit me. My niece, Candace was a cold water drowning (December ’06). In fact, it was so cold, I wondered if that was why the policeman who came upon the accident just minutes after she crashed didn’t go in to save her.

Here’s what happened to her.

Candace was driving home on a mostly empty road. A policeman on patrol who knew her passed her going the opposite direction. He went a mile further and did a u-turn to go back in Candace’s direction. Routine patrol. When he got to a bridge, he noticed her car was upside-down and underwater. He had just seen her about 5 minutes previously.

The back window was blown out and the officer could see part of a baby seat in the back. He assumed Candace got out of the car and took her baby with her. He did not go into the water to check and make sure. He called for backup and then called her grandparents to ask if she had walked home. All this time Candace was drowning right there in the car, she tried desperately to kick in the front windshield, her legs were found up on the dashboard and there was a spot where she had managed to crack the window with her feet.

Let me back up to the part just before the cop got there. A farmer who lived near the bridge heard the accident and went to see what all the noise was. At this time, he saw the car upside-down, but on the side of the ditch. It had not gone in the water yet. He went back home to call the police and get his tractor to pull the car out.

While he was gone, the car slid into the water.

So by the time the backup came and the place was swarming with police, not a single person thought to check the car. They were stunned when they pulled the car out and found her seat-belted in it. That was about an hour after the accident and there were no efforts to resuscitate her.

I’m not angry about this anymore, she’s gone and isn’t coming back. I’ve accepted this. Two chances for rescue were missed, farmers and cops are human, not superheroes. They have moments of stupidity just like the rest of us. (I understand the cop suffered greatly over this matter)

For some good news, over the summer, Candace’s brother and his wife had a baby girl and named her Candace.

You can read about my niece, Candace :::here:::


This May Save Your Life

Candace is my niece who drowned in her car on New Years Eve. We still don’t have all the details, all we know is she wrecked off of a bridge, her car landed in the water and she did not get out of it. The ditch she landed in normally has two feet of water, but since it had been raining so much the night before, it was seven feet deep that day.

I couldn’t understand why she didn’t get out of the car. It seems simple. It is not.

Less than a month after the accident, Mythbusters premiered their episode of a car underwater. They showed how difficult it was to get out, how the doors and windows are impossible to open at certain points while the car is sinking. It is best to open the door when the car first hits the water, or open the windows before the water rises that high. But once the water gets past the window, you need to break it with a hammer or one of those gadgets they sell just for that. Or conserve your energy and just hold your breath until the pressure equalizes in the cabin. Then the door will open easily. It is a long time, about a minute and a half of holding your breath.

I used to think, oh I’d just breath near the ceiling in that pocket of air. Wrong. The front end sinks first because the engine is so heavy. So, nose down. Cars usually rotate upside down, too. (very disorienting) I’d have to chase that pocket of air to the back dash. It’s not likely I’d be in clear water, either.

Oh. Make damn sure the very first thing you do is unlock the door and unbuckle your seatbelt.

This video shows how they got out using two different methods. It’s just a few minutes, but it may save your life. After you watch that, come back and hit this link, it shows their first attempt, uncut. Had they not had an oxygen tank in the car, one Mythbuster would have drowned.

Edited Note: Mythbuster segments are no longer available on YouTube, so I had to find a replacement.

Here is a 20/20 segment of them doing pretty much the same thing.

Or you could click on this link, a video from the experts, Survival Systems USA, “How To Get Out of A Sinking Car”.

I bought the LifeHammer and Res-Q me punches for every car we own. Just in case the door or windows are damaged and won’t open. The Res-Q me punch fits on the keychain and is easy to pull from the keyring. The LifeHammer also has a razor on it to cut the seatbelt.

You can order window punches from Amazon.