11 February 2006

Polar Plunge

Today was a real surprise. It seemed quite nice when I left home-sunny, not too cold, and clear. It had clouded up by the time I got to the firehouse, but I still believed that it would be a nice, or at least bearable day. We got all our gear ready and headed up to Wisconsin at 0900.

Once we got to the site at 0930, we suited up and tested out the suits in the water. A few of us were new to the whole "dive/rescue" thing, so we took our time to get used to how the suit feels. It is necessary to explain the suit, because I currently don't have any pictures. They weren't the nice dive suits, because those of us that weren't actually "diving" wore ice/cold water rescue suits. If you have ever seen a level A hazmat suit, these look very similar. They are big, yellow, and hard to walk in. Needless to say it did keep me somewhat warm for the first hour or so. Five of the divers actually did a dive for about 30 minutes under the ice; I was a tender on one of the lines. I don't recall my hands getting cold. Instead they started to hurt. The last of the divers were getting out when the first groups started to jump.

After we cleaned up the dive site we all went down to the beach where the rest of our rescuers were. I was standing/floating in about 5-6 feet of water, helping people get to the shallower area so they could walk out. I was very surprised that nobody got hurt. There were a few older people that I thought for sure I would have to do CPR on, but all went well. The last of the jumpers went around 1430. Of course, the jokesters we all are, we had to be dancing with the music in our suits, playing with the rescue board (including a few people taking it about 50 feet out where the ice started), and jumping.

About 5 minutes after the jumping started, it started to snow and get colder outside. By the time the second or third group was going it was practically a white-out. Even though the dry suits were nice, they didn't prevent my face from getting splashed with every jump and being covered in snow for 6 hours. Oh well, it was a good time and for a good cause (special olympics).

Me and one other firefighter decided to do the plunge...in our dry suits. More info about the suits. When you put them on they are really baggy, but as soon as you get in the water, the air rushes out and you are left with a relatively skin-tight outfit. Generally, when you wear these suits, you walk into the water, allowing the air to gently escape through the top of the suit by your head. Let's just say it doesn't quite work that way when you jump into the water. When we jumped in, we both blew up like something inside the suit inflated. I really wish I could get the pictures on here for full effect. We looked like we were all shoulders-having had all the air out of the entire suit violently forced into the chest and shoulders with no escape; we had both fastened the top of the suit that covers your head and part of your face. It was really funny.

I was sopping wet by the time I got out of the suit. Three of us looked like we peed in our pants. The suit can get rather uncomfortable if you wear the face/neck zipped up for too long, so most of us unzipped it a small amount. That wasn't such a good idea. The water ran all the way down from the top of my suit, and I could feel it running down my leg within seconds of dipping too far in the water or rolling over because my ankle weights weren't keeping my feet weighed down enough. Every time I would try to move my legs would float up from below and try to flip me. Back paddling, I learned, was the only way to go. Damn. I wish I would have learned that before hand. At least I wasn't the only one that was soaked.

After we were all cleaned up we went back to the station to clean the suits, our vehicle and other assorted diving gear. Then I headed home to dry my clothes and get back to the station by 1700 for shift. We didn't run any calls; we only picked up some supplies from a local hospital that we needed for one of our ambulances. I studied for a couple hours and it was time to go home. Now that I am home, I plan on getting some sleep. I will probably pop a few Advil and call it an early night. My face is really wind-burned and rather puffy. Hopefully it won't look so bad in the morning, otherwise I feel sorry for my patients.


Blogger medic! said...

How dare you post that without pictures. Im from the desert, man! I have no idea what youre talking about!

Blogger medic! said...

Oh, and as regards your February 9th post about the 380 lb pt...don't tell me people dont call 911 because their prescriptions ran out where your from. Last night we did a "bug bite" call! I couldve smacked the guy, but he had some really awesome vintage guitars so I gave him a bro pass.

Anonymous Andy said...

We do our cold water rescue training in March. I am SOOO not looking forward to this. Only because I hate being cold. It's good training though!


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