Sunday, December 22, 2013


Yesterday started off as a usual perfect day in paradise.  We had breakfast at the condo, and made our way to Kamaole III beach nearby.  After setting up the parasol and chairs, it was down into the surf for some boogie boarding.  George got dragged under by a wave and gave up, and I remember telling him to keep at it. "Sometimes life knocks you down, but you have to keep on getting back up".  Life is not without a sense of irony.

In the next set a big wave came and I crested it...and then was driven headfirst into the sand below.  I saw stars and felt lightning down my arms.  I staggered to my feet as the wave washed back, worried that I might drown if I lost conciousness in the surf.  I also wanted to get away from the next wave before it might drag me under.  I crawled onto the beach and discovered my face was filled with blood.

The lifeguards were waiting and got me a few steps further, lying me down while they brought a backboard and neck brace.  In a few minutes they were carrying me up the beach to wait for an ambulance to take me to the ER.  My fingers were burning; my head and neck numb.  My family stood by watching me, shock and horror across their faces.  I am sure I looked pretty bad.

In the ambulance, the paramedics kept asking me to touch my toes together, move my fingers, repeat my name and address - I knew they wanted to keep me out of shock and assess how much potential damage I had to my neck or spine.  They got an IV started and took my vitals.

At the hospital, they kept asking me the same things - move my fingers and toes, repeat my name and address.  Everyone was concerned that I could have serious damage to my C5 cervical spine and/or a possible concussion.  I was X-Rayed and ultimately given CT and MRI as well to ensure there was no bleeding inside my brain.  They took blood and gave me a tetanus shot as well.

After a long day (over an hour lying immobile just in the MRI), the net result was better than expected:  apart from a few stitches in my lip where my face hit the sand, just some minor abrasions and stiffness/soreness.  I am not dead (it happens).  I am not paralyzed (it also happens) or permanently injured.  I did not break my neck or my back, and did not even break my nose.  I did not get a concussion and did not chip any teeth. I have no internal injuries, broken bones or dislocations.  I do not have a long hospital stay or months of agonizing physical therapy ahead.  I have been incredibly lucky.

I believe that martial arts had a big hand in saving my life and health yesterday.
At first, I was able to keep myself concious and stay focused on getting out of the water and out of danger. My survival instinct is honed a bit better than the average person it seems.  Martial arts training has also made me acutely aware of my own body, and this helped me to understand my condition and be able to communicate exactly what I felt.  It also helped me stay calm and focused as I dealt with all the changing situation and the possible outcomes I might have been facing.  I used my training to remain still during over an hour in MRI so they could get good quality images to assess possible spinal/cervical swelling or brain damage.

I had several hours to think about my life and how lucky I am.  Lucky for my training.  Lucky for my family. Lucky for every breath I take and every step I travel.  Lucky to have come to such a beautiful place. Luckier still to have come so close to losing so much, and to be able to get up and walk away.

Accidents happen.  The best we can do is to try to be prepared and be willing to accept whatever comes our way.  I am well aware of the fact that I will die someday, but until this morning I hadn't really thought about the fact that it could have been yesterday - in the surf off Kamaole III public beach near Kihei, HI.

Much mahalo to everyone who helped me yesterday, from lifeguards to paramedics to ER staff to doctors and neuro specialists.  Thank you for making sure I am not broken.

I wish you all a joyful holiday season.  Keep your loved ones close.  Count your blessings.  Cherish each day.  See you soon.  

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