Jonah's Journal
Find out why Jonah volunteered, what he regretted, and what he learned through the "Boot Camp" Experience.

Friday, April 4th – Pre-Boot Camp
Today I meet the rest of my fellow boot campers. It hasn’t set in yet just how crazy this really is going to be. All the others seem pretty knowledgeable in the subject but I think we are all in for quite a surprise. When I heard about the project it sounded like a very good opportunity to get the life jacket message out to the public. I am hoping when I swim I go numb REALLY quick. I think if this shows people how disabling cold water can be, this show could save lives. I heard about the project months ago when Ted and Cecelia came to my Coast Guard Station to scout out a possible film location. I thought it sounded like something that could be used in classrooms and boating expos for a really long time. I really find the subject interesting and think I will learn a lot of things I will be able to use in my work.

Saturday, April 5th – Arrival
When we arrive there are ambulances and emergency personnel everywhere. There are boats, divers, paramedics, and my fellow Coasties covering almost every square foot of the station. I feel very safe now that I see what kind of precautions are in place.

We all have our interviews and swim order out of the way. I am hoping to last the longest in the cold water. I’m swimming second to last. After 5 of the Campers get their swim out of the way I start to get nervous. We are watching Deadliest Catch while we wait and it makes me think, it could be worse. We are making jokes about how every time we hear Lorenzo coming up the stairs another one of us gets pulled out there. Now that it is my turn I am pacing back and forth waiting for the foot steps. When he finally comes to get me he puts me in a waiting area until it’s time, did I mention I’m nervous now? The paramedics take my blood pressure and pulse and tell me that it’s high. I already knew that. Then I walk down to the beach.

I get interviewed by Dr. Geizbrecht and he asks me how many times I think I can swim from the boat to the swim buoy, I tell him ten. I think I can make it, it’s mind over matter. I can do this.

I ride the ferry boat out to the Coast Guard boat anchored in the harbor. I think I should have stuck to being part of the rescue crew. The guys at the Station want me to do a cannon ball into the water, I guess I might as well. When the Coxswain of the boat tells me to jump I freeze for a minute. “Now?” “Yes, now, whenever you’re ready”

I immediately regret my cannon ball. The water on my face is painful. I start to hyperventilate and struggle to stay afloat. After a minute or two I calm down a little, it is still very painful but I start to get used to it. Before too long I figure out swimming backwards is more efficient for me and keeps my airway out of the water better. Every time I look back at the buoy it looks so far away. My feet start to go underneath my body and I can’t keep them up so it makes it much harder to swim. My hands are completely numb, I start to get disoriented. I don’t know how long it takes but my body starts to go numb, my senses are so confused right now I almost feel warm in my chest. I am NOT going to make ten laps, I know that REALLY quick. The top of my head is hurting from laying back in the water, but every time I turn around to freestyle I realize I can’t swim like that. I know I am doggy paddling and I cant keep more than half of my face out of the water. Every kick of of my feet feels like getting my legs beat with a broom handle. I finally swim in to shore, when I feel ground under me I almost feel like I get a second wind. It quickly fades as Dr. Giezbrecht interviews me. I remember him asking me how long I stayed in for. I answered about
five or ten minutes, he tells me over 20 and I can’t believe it. After that part of the conversation I
zone out. All I can remember is the tightening of my whole body. I remember as the interview went on I crouched lower and lower, and shook more and more. Before the interview was over I was uncontrollably shaking violently. I know I had to have said some spaced out things.

Saturday, April 5th–Post Swim
I get taken from the beach to an ambulance to get checked out. I have waves of shaking that feel like a seizure. The paramedic tells me I am shaking too bad to go into the hot tub. Dr. Geizbrecht tells the paramedic that my core temperature has only decreased a degree or two and it would be OK to go into the tub. The paramedic says it’s up to me. I opt for the hot tub. At first it was really painful so I just put my feet in. I felt like I was able to keep my shivering under control. Once I eased into the hot tub I was in heaven. I could have stayed in there all night. I was so happy that the swim part was over. I remember thinking I can’t believe someone who was in cold water for over twenty minutes can go straight into a hot tub. Dr. Geizbrecht explained I wasn’t in hypothermia yet so my core temperature was still high enough to warm up normally. If I wasn’t even hypothermic and I was THAT incapacitated I can’t imaging really having my core temperature be in the low 90s.

Sunday, April 6th– Class
Here we go again. The whole morning we are in class with Dr. Geizbrecht. We get our swimming assignments for round two. I’m happy that Mark and Mario volunteered to swallow the radio pill for core temperature monitoring. I’m swimming next to Tim and luckily I got chose to wear the life jacket. I feel bad for Tim but, I can’t bring myself to volunteer to switch with him. During class I learn that a large amount of people who drown in cold water do so within a few meters of safety. If that fact alone doesn’t scare some people into wearing their life jacket, I really don’t know what will.

Getting ready for swim two is not quite as bad as the first time. I am dreading it, but I at least know what to expect. It’s really, really cold. Today’s swim is going to be in the river and Tim and I are going to jump in next to each other. Today is so much colder than yesterday, and the wind is blowing. I can see little waves in the river and I know that is going to make it 100% harder to not suck in water.

Before I know it I’m on the Fire Department boat riding out to the starting point. Once again I try to stall and ask a bunch of questions about where they want me to swim, which side they want me to jump from, and anything else I could think of. I know it’s going to be SO cold, I really don’t want to do this again. We both stand up in the front of the boat. We jump in side by side.

Sunday, April 6th – Swim 2
My head went under the water again, I wish I hadn’t done that. Once again the first couple minutes in the water are brutally painful but this time I have my life jacket on. I figure out quickly that with the life jacket on I don’t need to move my arms to stay afloat. I tuck my arms close to my side and quit moving them. I remember from my ice rescue classes that most of your heat escapes through the head, armpits, and groin. With the life jacket on I am able to keep my legs together and my arms at my side. I look at Tim swimming next to me and the pain on his face makes me feel guilty for effortlessly floating next to him. I want to swim over and help him because he is working SO hard to do what I am doing without even trying. My boss is on the sea wall cheering me on and I start talking to him. I know it has been five or ten minutes now and I feel fine. My body is numb, I’m not in pain and I feel totally coherent. I look back at Tim again, now his face is going under the water every couple of strokes, he’s done. They get him in the boat and take him in. I’m still floating around feeling nothing. Then the Coast Guard boat stops twenty or thirty feet away. Dr. Geizbrecht asks how I’m doing and if I can swim to the boat, I’ve been in the water for fifteen minutes now and I start freestyle swimming towards the boat like I just got in. When I get on the
boat, I am in total awe of how much different the swim was with a life jacket. The difference is AMAZING, it was like night and day from one swim to the next and the only difference was a normal type III life jacket. After over fifteen minutes in the water Dr. Geisbrecht interviewed me and I am cold and shivering but I feel a lot better than I did after the last swim. I’m ready for the hot tub.

Sunday, April 6th – What I Learned
I learned so many things about cold water from this experience. Cold water is something to be feared because it doesn’t look any different than warm water and yet it is a hundred times more dangerous. I learned how to swim when I was four and grew up in pools and the lake like many others, but when I jumped in the water without a life jacket it was a crippling feeling. I also feel like it was a very controlled environment I swam in, a harbor with no waves at all. When I was swimming with no life jacket at times my nose was barely out of the water, if I fell of my boat in the lake, it would not be as calm of an environment. I would fall in the water and while I would struggle to control my breathing a wave would splash my face, I would suck water, and it would be all over.

I am sure this show will save people’s lives because hypothermia and cold water is something that everybody thinks that they understand and they don’t, but this will explain it. I know any one who actually watches this will gain a new respect for cold water and how fast it can disable you if you don’t wear a life jacket. If you do wear a life jacket and make smart decisions when you end up in the water, you can greatly increase your chances of survival and/or rescue. Hypothermia can’t kill you without a life jacket, you’ll be dead before you get there.