A mid-week joyride turned into a rescue operation on Georgian Bay. It was about 7 pm in the early evening of September 17th that Ward Bond, owner of Blue Mountain Honda and his friend Steve Ferrari ventured out to take a spin on their new personal HONDA watercrafts. The waves were huge making their first ride a blast with lots of action and wave jumping.
Approximately 3 kilometers off shore they came across a capsized single man sailboat with the fifty-something skipper draped across the hull of the boat shivering and suffering from hypothermia.
The man was barely able to speak his own name and had little or no muscular control.
Transferring the sailor from the hull of the sailboat onto a personal watercraft, which is not stable at the best of times, was no easy task and leaving the sailboat behind, they balanced the victim on a bumpy ride back to safety.
Ward and Steve were dressed properly for the occasion in full wetsuits and Ward mentions that having taken his boating certification just 10-days prior, he was very familiar with the signs of hypothermia and the importance of getting the man to the hospital as quickly as possible for proper medical treatment.
The Collingwood Harbour Master had mentioned that Ward and Steve ‘were his only customers that day’…so it seems as though the stars were aligned.
We asked our resident Pharmacist, Lesley Paul to give us some information regarding hypothermia, the signs, precautions and treatments so we could caution and advise you. While the late summer days may still seem warm and inviting…being out on the water at this time of year can be very dangerous.
With the warm temperatures and sunny skies, September seems like a great time for an afternoon sail. But don’t forget that the cool nights (after a cooler summer) have kept the bay temperatures down. And although the hot sun may be beating down from above, the temperature of the water can still put boaters at risk for hypothermia.
Hypothermia results from abnormally low body temperatures. The body loses more heat than it produces causing the circulatory, respiratory and nervous system to slow down. Severe cases can be fatal.
Hypothermic skin feels cold to the touch but the body doesn’t shiver. Other symptoms include drowsiness, weakness, irritability, confusion or delirium, slow reflexes and shallow breathing. The heartbeat can be irregular and eventually stop.
Hypothermia can be prevented by simply being prepared for the environment and recognizing the early symptoms. When heading out on the water, or outdoors in the cold, wear insulated or layered moisture-wicking clothing, including a hat. Avoid overexertion and be sure to consume sufficient food and fluids. (PLEASE NO ALCOHOL!)
If you do happen to find yourself in a situation involving hypothermia it is important to seek immediate medical attention, as this is a medical emergency. Mild cases can be treated by slowly warming the affected person.
Remove wet clothing and replace with dry, warm clothes and blankets. Heat packs can be placed under the arms and on the chest, neck and groin. Emergency staff may need to use intravenous fluids to re-warm the body.
Warm blankets in a warm room or in a large tub of warm water can also be used. Do not massage the skin as this may dilate the blood vessels on the surface of the body, drawing blood away for the core vital organs, causing the circulatory system to collapse.
Complications can such as gangrene in the hands and feet, inflammation of the pancreas, fluid in the lungs, pneumonia, kidney failure and heart irregularities can result although those with mild cases usually recover completely.