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    Seconds for Survival



    Story by Petty Officer 3rd Class Brian McCrum 

    U.S. Coast Guard District 9

    Kate Lord was walking down the hill toward Edgewater beach with a couple of her friends at approximately 4 p.m. on Friday, April 13, 2018. They were granted liberty from their Coast Guard duties at Cleveland, grabbed smoothies and were going to look for lake glass and shells on the beach to kick off their weekend. At least, that was what they thought they would do. In reality, they were about to save a life.

    Lord spotted him first. A man was waist deep in the lake a quarter of a mile away from them. An avid surfer, Lord initially thought he might be one of the 15 or so people who, like herself, surf year-round at Edgewater while wearing dry-suits. She scanned the beach and water for a surf-board.

    “I got this weird feeling,” Lord said. “I was like, ‘This doesn’t seem like a surfer.’ It probably took me about 10 seconds to figure it out. I was trying to see if there was a board.”

    Lord started sprinting down the beach, her years of ocean rescue experience kicking in. She could clearly see now that this man was struggling.

    "As I got there I saw him fall back in the water and he just started kind of sinking. So then I ran in and jumped in.”
    For Lord, whose duties in the Coast Guard are administrative in nature, this would be her 19th rescue. However, when she saved Michael McCollum’s life that day, one factor differentiated it from any of her previous rescues: cold water.

    Lord grew up in Maine where she was on the surf team in high school. Before enlisting in the Coast Guard at age 18, she was a firefighter, pool lifeguard and spent three summers doing ocean rescue. During her years of ocean rescue, Lord rescued 18 people from the water, including 13 in one day. She joined the Coast Guard hoping to be a rescue swimmer, before being medically disqualified.

    From experience, she knows how to ride out rip currents in order to rescue someone. She knows how to hold people as she side-strokes back to shore. She’s dealt with drunken and combative people drowning, young children drowning, a 50-year-old man whose achilles tendon snapped and balled up into his calf while in the water. Her rescues have made her always observant when people are in the water, or, to echo the Coast Guard’s motto: Semper Paratus, Always Ready.

    “Whenever I see people in the water I always have that instinct already,” said Lord.

    It was that instinct that enabled Lord to recognize the danger and spring into action. It was her knowledge of cold water from when she was stationed on Lake Michigan that made her realize the urgency of the situation. She knew that air temperature doesn’t equate to water temperature in early spring.

    The average water temperature in mid-April for Lake Erie, the warmest of all the Great Lakes, is in the 30’s, an extremely dangerous temperature that can kill you in less than a minute. Immersion in cold water, which is anything under 77 degrees Fahrenheit, is immediately life-threatening to anyone not wearing thermal protection.

    McCollum had been at the beach when his dog swam out into the lake and appeared to be struggling to get back to shore.

    “I entered the cold water to chase after him and eventually got him turned back to the shore,” said McCollum. “On my way out of the water, I had gotten about waist deep when hypothermia kicked in and I had lost all muscle strength to bear my own weight and had fallen backward into the lake with waves crashing over my face.”

    Lord put her arms underneath his shoulders and started carrying him out while her friends grabbed his legs and brought him out of the lake and onto the beach. He was in the water for approximately six minutes and was shivering uncontrollably.

    “He was laughing,” Lord said. “He was saying crazy things. He looked alert, but he was just laughing. That’s kind of in one of the later stages, where you just lose all…you look like you’re awake but you’re not there. He doesn’t remember anything.”

    Lord and her friends, Aliah Munroe and Oliver Kennedy, had to keep McCollum alive for almost 45 minutes. The EMS truck wasn’t able to get to them that far down the beach and the Sheriff’s SUV got stuck in the sand while attempting to reach them.

    “We removed his clothing and then there was a towel from somebody close by that we grabbed,” said Lord. “I wrapped his head around with the towel, and then wrapped my sweat shirt underneath his armpits. Aliah grabbed his feet. Oliver grabbed his hands.”

    The only thing that McCollum remembers is Lord holding his head in a towel as he drifted in and out of consciousness while she tried to engage him in conversation to keep him awake.

    Eventually, a truck was able to get down to them and EMS took McCollum to the hospital where he was treated for hypothermia.

    “It is without a doubt that my body was losing heat faster than it could generate on its own,” McCollum said. “I had entered into a severe stage of hypothermia and if it weren’t for the swift actions of Kathleen, Oliver and Aliah, I surely would have died.”



    Date Taken: 05.16.2019
    Date Posted: 10.04.2019 13:38
    Story ID: 346065
    Location: CLEVELAND, OH, US 

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