(no subject)

Yesterday, Jay, Jessica, Cyrus, Micah, me and Jack all went rafting from the lower boat ramp of Milo McIver state park. (This is where Jay and I were married) Jay took a kayak, I took a new raft, and the rest went in large, mesh bottom tubes.

Jay drank it three times- the first when he was launching, the second after the first set of rapids, the third after the second set of rapids. I took a whole tub full of water after the second rapids, too, so Jay and I went to the bank.

Now, Jessica had got caught in the second rapids and she had to drag her tube down a ways. It was slow going but she finally broke free and got back in her tube and started floating down to the third section of rapids.

During this time, Jay was starting to have a huge panic attack. Last year, Jay almost drowned and had a very frightening ordeal in the kayak, and flipping it three times in 20 minutes was just not going to work. So I pulled over with my raft full of water and waited for a few minutes. I had intended for Jay to help me out, but he was busy freaking out by himself. I watched Jessica struggle with the rapids, break free and then disappear down stream.

Jessica began to scream. And then she stopped screaming. And then after a few seconds, she started screaming again. A LOT. Screaming for her son to get out of the water. After a few moments, it became apparent that something was NOT RIGHT and so I got up and out of my raft and drug it into the shore rocks. I passed Jay and told him to come with me, that something was wrong, that it was an emergency situation, that he needed to come help. He was like, I AM FREAKING OUT RIGHT NOW I CANT, to which I replied, yes, you can, get up and help my best friend.

So we walked the shore rocks to get to where she was screaming and we saw that she was in a pretty rough situation.

Let me try to describe it. Imagine a river bed. On the right are some shallows and on the left is deeper, fast rushing water. Now, straight through the middle are three large boulders. These are the sort that your raft would brush and move away from, because they are pretty large. Now, off to the left was an extra huge boulder, easily the same mass as the other three put together. The water also fell down the rocks a bit, creating a small ledge. These rocks signify the start of the third set of rapids.

Any other day, these rocks would have been thrilling and challenging to cross without getting totally soaked, but not a huge danger. Today, however, there was a 30 foot downed tree, dead just a few days, laying across the left side of the bank and over into the middle of the river. The tree was most likely a birch, with a large cluster or big branches and smaller branches near the middle of the river. Some of these had snapped off, and one very large branch had lodged itself next to the largest rock. It was snapped off and sharp, with one very long branch sticking straight out of the water, and several other sharp branches just under the surface. It was situated in such a way as to cause serious, severe harm to anyone who might happen onto it, with it's sharp points pointed upstream.

Jessica was pinned, injured and stuck, on the upriver side of tree, near the middle of the river bed. If she were to let go, she would be impaled on the sharp branches blocking the only bypass around the largest rock. She was raftless and missing her life jacket. Later she would tell me that she had become pinned down under the water as the branches tangled into the strings of her vest, and it had been necessary to remove it in order to prevent herself from drowning. The tube she had been using was popped and floated downstream. We saw an other raft/tube pinned securely under the heavy rushing water- this gave us a good clue as to how many strong, sharp branches were just under the surface at the bypass. It was not good.

Micah had also hit the tree, but much further up. He could have gotten to shore but he chose to move further out to Jessica. This was good, as she would tell me later, because she had smacked her head very hard twice before being sucked under the water. Micah positioned himself so that he could hold Jessica up as she became too dizzy and her arms started to go numb. Even though I was logistically close to them, I had to shout my words to people down shore to shout it back up to them, because the rushing water was so loud. She was screaming, crying, shaking and alternately trying not to pass out from something very much like a seizure episode. If Micah had not been there, Jessica would have drown while waiting for help to arrive.

So, there they waited for half an hour, until the rescue team showed up. Four men in two pontoon boats. They all crossed over to the closest calm location, and then spent more time than I liked discussing the possible ways to handle the situation. They discussed all of the things that could go wrong. One man started climbing out the tree, which resulted in very large rocks and small boulders being jostled loose and carried downstream. Several of them grazed and smashed into Jessica's legs (which were already numb from the water). The man was ordered back and they continued to discuss a full plan.

It was perhaps 20 more minutes before the actual rescue took place. The same eager man climbed back out with a roped life vest strapped on, and he put a regular life jacket onto Jessica. In the shallows, an other rescue worker stood with the long rope in his arms, wrapped around his back. He had positioned himself against a strong rock, to use for leverage. The intention was that the roped worker would secure the regular life vest to Jessica, and then put his arms into the back/shoulder section of her vest, while he himself was the one who was roped. The rope holder would control them away from the disastrous spike branches, and one more worker at the bottom would catch them and pull them out of the water.

Jessica was terrified. She could see what she was going to be floating into and didn't trust her body to respond the way it needed to. She was scared that the rope wouldn't be enough, and she cried and refused and was very unhappy at the mode of rescue. Eventually she was convinced, and everything went as planned. They pulled her out of the water and checked her as the roped man went back up shore and out to Micah. Micah was very calm the whole time, and it was pretty quick getting him off of the tree and over to shore.

They generously took our whole party across the river after Jessica was safely across. She was taken to the hospital by ambulance with Cyrus, and Jay got a ride in the back of a cop car up to get to Jessica's car, while Jack, Micah and I waited with all of the gear in someone's front driveway. We got everything out of there, went to the hospital, got her home and then ended the day in a relatively somber, glad-that-everyone-was-still-alive sort of way.