rescue limbo

Sometimes you’re rescuing, sometimes you’re being rescued.

This week, I experienced perhaps my closest call with allergy induced epinephrine injections. A simple, “I think I must have ingested citrus somehow…” benadryl administration became a rather stressful drive to the ER with epi at the ready. Carrying an epipen myself, the concept of stabbing someone in a dire situation (most likely myself) has been a prospect I’ve been comfortable with, though not excited by, for the last several years. Luckily, I’ve not yet had to use my personal one, but the possibility looms dark and deep like a thundercloud on the imminent horizon.

When you cut your saw and hear the garbled speech of a serious reaction before even turning around, the gears are already whirring as you turn. Who & what are where, what is the safest option; how can I herd the group & ensure their safety, and give medical attention at the same time? And when to give epi? I have experienced half a dozen, if not more, explanations of when, and why to administer epinephrine.. let’s just say there are some…mild gray areas, confounded especially by the egregious expense of it—best not to stab someone if they don’t actually need it… some people will say this to you, some people won’t, but the unspoken expectation is there. Epi is only when absolutely necessary—otherwise, it’s considered a waste. So how to know when to give it? Especially when your patient is mid-anxiety attack, expressing an increasing sense of impending doom & inability to intake oxygen? Epi or no? I opted with a deep breathing exercise, buying a bit more time to decide between stabbing or not, which also allowed for all the saws and crew to be accounted for, and loaded onto & into the rig.

A longer than appreciated winding, twisting drive, with far too many stop signs, red lights, and the realization of a non-functional horn later, and we’ve successfully arrived at the ER, with the epi still safely enclosed in its housing.

Someone tells me it was handled with grace and composure, and I have a mild chuckle to myself, knowing that I was worried about a million and one potentials in the preceding moments, and how did none of that show? A job well done given the outcome, but still.. the right call?


I was the last, or second to last to drop into the rapid. I had this off feeling, lurking just beyond my mental reaches all day, that never came into clear focus.. until I was stuck sideways against what appeared to be a forgotten railroad tie, wedged between a few rocks on river left. I hadn’t seen it until the last possible minute, and in that instant, my split second hesitation of try to get over the tie, versus trying to maneuver around it, ended with me slammed and stuck against it, at near flip trying to free myself. In the commotion of attempts, I was head underwater, paddle dropped. A forceful handroll yielded a lungful of air, and some slippage of the wood, but no sustained solution to my upside-down pin dilemma. Initially excited by the opportunity to salvage the run & save myself a swim, I began to push my way through what I imagined to be an unblocked channel… in short order, with minimal movement & the less-than-pleasant sensory experience of rocks in all the directions you can reach, I realised I might be moving myself to a far more dangerous pin position than the one I was currently in. That thought was enough to engage the flight response of skirt pulling, and hasty expulsion from boat. I was all twisted up; my leg stuck in the boat pulling my shoe off as I freed myself. As I attempted to heave my water filled boat on the shore, ineffectually post-holing with only one shoe still on, the other forlorn on the bank, and failing miserably in these attempts, I registered three people nearly upon me ready to help. I uttered a barely audible feeble protest of self-rescue as my boat was flipped & emptied, and chose to embrace the help as friends carried my boat along the shoreline, slipping and sliding to reunite with my rescued paddle & and the rest of the group.

‘well that was eventful.’

It is a humbling and gratifying experience to be the rescuer, and as much, if not more so, to be in the position of the rescued. To experience both in less than a week offers an intriguing juxtaposition. What is it about these near-miss experiences of potential crisis that build community? Is trust blindly given in the moment, and validated by sound decision-making & good luck? Perhaps it is the emergence from the limbo of crisis that facilitates this bonding; the trust that though not will go smoothly all of the time, there are people who will dare greatly in those tough moments, who will endeavour to muster all forces of ingenuity, sacrifice, and will, in order to, if nothing else, swim with us through that limbo, tug us ashore, and be present as we put together the pieces when we have clawed our way onto the riverbank.

because, after all, we’re all just between swims.

(photo courtesy of tammy cooley)


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