Portland parks worker is in right place, right time to help kayaker
Sellwood Park. New Year’s Day. Man emerged in dark, said kayak overturned near Oaks Park. “Wet suit” filled with water (think it was a dry suit). Weak and shaking, hypothermia. Park worker took to heater, helped undress and towel him, called 911.
Scary, and miraculous that a compassionate smart park worker was there early on the morning of a holiday.
Just bought a drysuit, hope this never happens! Think I’d try to get out of it if it were waterlogged the minute I got to shore.
What’s the proper procedure?
Can’t see anything and it looks like the paper wants a registration anyway. So no way to assess.
there you go
does this work?
For a minute there, …
… I thought some clever person found a way to save the day with “Scrubbing Bubbles” or “Lime-Away”. MacGyver to the rescue!
The “correct procedure” is not always easy to recall since one of the first issues with hypothermia is impaired thinking. That said, many of the issues should be addressed before one gets on the water.
- Under the drysuit (which this person was clearly wearing), wear clothes that don’t lose their thermal function when wet. This guy was probably wearing cotton and, once it is wet, you’re better off naked. Wool, polypro, or other fabrics which work when wet are amazing. I used to ride my bike, rain, shine, day, or night, to work (10-12 miles each way). I have a turtleneck from wheelsmith and it was all I needed to wear on rainy days because it was too warm, even when wet. Some of these fabrics are marvelous.
- If conditions are remote, drain the drysuit and put it back on, if there is no other way to dry off.
- Move. Shivering is a message from your body that it wants to be warmer and the simplest method is motion. Walking should suffice if the hypothermia is moderate. If the body isn’t shivering, it may mean that the body temperature is WAY too low.
Taken without permission from :
“Insulate from ground – pine branches, leaves, moss, anything to provide insulation will work.
Change wet clothing for windproof, waterproof gear
Add heat – if safe, start a fire
Increase exercise, if possible
Get into a pre-warmed sleeping bag or blankets
Drink hot drinks, followed by candy or other high-sugar foods
Apply heat to neck, armpits and groin”
Not all of this is possible in all conditions and treatment varies depending upon the severity of the hypothermia. This guy probably was probably not thinking clearly because he violated rule #1. He went on the water without wearing proper fabrics under his suit. It would be interesting to find out why the drysuit failed, but I don’t see any indicators of this in the article.
Maybe was semi-dry?
If the guy went in with either a two piece system, or a semi-dry (not a water-tight neck gasket), and did some swimming he could have ended up with water sloshing around in the legs with no failure on the part of the suit. (or the user, ie an incompletely closed zipper)
I doubt the Parks guy or the reporter knew enough to sort that out - it would have all looked like a big spread of something synthetic. Also, the fact of a capsize makes me wonder if this was someone who had just acquired a lot of new gear for Christmas but didn’t really know how to use it yet - including the boat.
It may be a seasoned paddler who had a true failure of a dry suit and managed to fall out of their boat, but the story doesn’t give you enough to make that leap.
As to the recovery - all advice for cold water is to separate the person from the water as quickly as possible, whether it is water in clothing or the river itself. Then wrap them up in something dry and worry about warming.
Could you have meant a park employee, a maintenance man, a custodian or possibly a park ranger? Whatever the employee should have been referred as, a bathroom cleaner was pretty demeaning. Did he use his phone or yours to place the call and was he later scolded for taking care of you instead of cleaning the fecal and urine matter from the toilets seats and picking up the trash that failed to make it into the receptacles and the spit hock from the sinks and the chewing gum and tobacco spit from the urinals? Sounds to me like he is an extraordinary public “servant”.
I suspect that the OPer was just being overly quick to post, but you are correct. Thanks for the reminder that words matter.
Truly exceeding expectations!
Look… pushing that cart…with the brush in his hand.
Why, it’s… REST ROOM SANITATION MAN!
Being one myself I have never once thought the job demeaning. We custodians as a whole have tremendous power over the general populace. Ever wonder who disinfects the doorknobs, telephones and other communicable surfaces? The highest honor I ever received as a Rest Room Specialist was when my boss checked the “Exceeds Expectations” column on my monthly evaluation file.
Heroic and smart bathroom cleaner
No, if you've ever been there, bathroom cleaner is the most amazing description because the bathrooms are close to the dock, and for anybody to actually be cleaning them, let alone on New Year's morning, is a miracle. You don't see the park maintenance folks much, and they've been locking the city bathrooms and putting up honey buckets -- even there at Sellwood in the summer.
Last year the Columbia flooded and backed up the Willamette to the point where the entire place was a lake; the river rose past the huge sea wall and flooded the highlands. They had police tape and fenced off the dock which was above the treetops, just insane. We did not think the bathrooms would ever open again.
And reading the article, it was for the express and sole purpose of cleaning the bathrooms that the hero was there. Nothing demeaning intended at all, just factual, and miraculous!
Makes one wonder a bit
about the wisdom of putting myself in situations where mishap means likely death unless a technological marvel - ie. dry suit - performs as designed. Can’t tell from the story what the heck happened. Anyone ever hear of an accident involving a dry suit failure? I find it a little unsettling.
Likely anyone who has paddled long enough, has heard of a sudden, unexpected and difficult to manage dry suit failure somewhere. But with proper maintenance and attention they are rare.
And re that story, there is not enough info in this story to know if the suit failed, or if the paddler was even wearing a true dry suit.
But what usually happens…
Paddler doesn’t fully close a zipper, usually due to being in a rush to get on the water. This is a good reason to walk into the water to burp your suit - gives you a chance to check how the layers are doing and alerts you to that unexpected cold spot before you end up swimming.
You take down the suit for the lunch break and find out that the neck gasket has gone one paddle too far when it rips as you are suiting up again. Duct tape can be a wonderful thing, even if it is a little scratchy.
A zipper that was fine suddenly starts fighting back big league - usually a matter of sand in it or it hasn’t been rinsed well from prior exposure to salt. Enough rinsing will usually get it moving, but carrying zipper wax is a good idea when paddling on salt water.
The other stuff is annoying but minor - seams that need patching at elbows, waist and boots that you didn’t notice until that first paddle in January, a cold wet feeling because the suit needs a rinse to renew the DWR layer, that kind of thing.
Properly cared for, these suits are pretty robust and true dry suit failures aren’t all that common. But there are several ways that paddlers can contribute to a problem.
Hope I’m not the one in a million
“Properly cared for, these suits are pretty robust and true dry suit failures aren’t all that common.”
Thank you Celia
Celia, I really appreciate your contributions. Your experience and info are invaluable.