I asked the men's group I am a part of to pray that God would reveal Himself to me and show me His power in a very real way. Here is what happened just four day later.
On December 2, 2006, it was early morning and I pulled the boat down to the river. I was listening to a Christian radio station and they announced the temperature was a chilly 5 degrees with a wind chill of 12 below. Nevertheless, I was eager to get on the water and do some walleye fishing.
I backed the trailer into the water and fired up the boat. Having tied it up to the dock, I turned on the graph to let things warm up while I parked the truck and got my cold weather clothes on.
Walking back down to the boat, I slid most of the way on ice that formed from pulling the trailer out of the water. The graph showed the water temperature was 33.7 degrees, and I thought, "That's cold! It's going to iced up soon."
I headed up river to a spot which the weekend before had produced some nice fish and plenty of action. I cranked the throttle wide open on the 60 horse and started breaking waves.
Suddenly, the boat hit a submerged log and my body was airborne--I slammed into the freezing water and sank like a rock. Three big strokes later I broke the water's surface and struggled to get a big breath of air, but sank again as I fought to get my big pack boots off.
When I got to the surface my limbs were numb and my face was freezing. My immediate thought was, "Get to the boat!" but it was going wide open in a circle. I tried anyway but the waves the boat were making, along with the wind were just too much. Also, I could very easily be run over by the boat. I turned and glanced towards shore and it hit me, "Oh my gosh, I am going to die in this river over a bunch of stinking walleyes."
For a few moments I considered just breathing in the water and letting myself drown. Then I thought of my three grandkids and I cried out to God, "Please Lord help me make it to shore. Lord, they need their grandpa."
I flipped over to a back float and slowly paddled my way towards shore trying my best to keep my head above water. My body was gasping and shaking due to the cold. I knew I had to get my breathing under control and try to relax. Waves of freezing water were crashing on my face. When I got water in my mouth I swallowed it instead of trying to cough it up. I kept praying over and over again, "Lord, let me make it to shore."
All a sudden I kicked the bottom and turned over and caught sight of two men on shore. They were yelling to me saying, "You can do it! Come on!" I got to about waist deep water and I told them I could not go any farther. My clothes were to heavy and I was overcome with exhaustion and cold. The two fellows ran in and got me up the steps to a waiting squad car with its heat on high.
The wife of one of the men who helped bring me out of the water got in the seat next to me and kept talking until the ambulance arrived. She told me she was making coffee when she heard a boat coming up river. She could not believe someone was out when it was so cold! She got to her dining room window just in time to see me fly out of the boat and hit the water. She screamed to her husband, "Oh no! Someone just flew out of a boat into the water."
She called 911 and the dispatcher told her not to watch because, "In that cold water he will not make it out."
The Pierce County Water Patrol was called to drag for the body and a Hastings, Minnesota ambulance was also called to pick the body up.
She watched anyway while her husband and a neighbor friend ran down to the shore. (At that time of the year there were no boats along the shore because they were all stored for the winter) By the grace of God they were there to pull me out of the water and help me up to the waiting squad car. After a short visit with the lady, the paramedics arrived and walked me up to the back of the ambulance.
They stripped off my wet clothes and wrapped me in a pile of blankets. The paramedics were asking me questions and talking to me and laughing. I was telling them how big my God was and to call my wife to bring me some dry clothes. When I got to the hospital, I was put in an air mattress that had thousands of holes which circulate warm air around the entire body. It's called the Bear Hugger--and it felt great.
After being out of the water and under the Bear Hugger for and hour and a half, they took my core temperature and it was still only 93 degrees. At 93 degrees your organs are supposed to start shutting down. The doctor figured out my core temperature and been somewhere in the 80's when I was helped out of the water.
While laying under the Bear Hugger my daughters, my sons-in-law, and grandchildren came to see me. Tears were flowing. It was hard for me to believe I almost lost my life and the privilege of having an impact on my grandkids' lives. (let alone the rest of my family and friends)
A Pierce County Water Patrol officer showed up to file a report and was amazed that I had survived. He told me that when the call came in stating that a guy flew out of his boat into the water and that he would need to drag for the body he thought,"What in the world is a guy doing fishing on such a cold day anyway." But, when he was on his way to the river he got a call that I had made it to shore and was on my way to the Hastings Hospital.
After I was released from the hospital five hours later, my two sons-in-law and I went back to the river and retrieved the boat.
The next day I could not move. I was sore from head to toe and had a hard time breathing. I ended up back in the emergency room.
A week later I was hospitalized again for further testing. After getting settled into my room a nurse came in and stated, "You're that guy!"
I said, "What?"
She said, "You're that guy that went swimming in the river!" She then gave me a big hug and said,"I cannot wait to get home to tell my husband. He was one of the paramedics that picked you up that day. He said they got a call to pick up the body of a fisherman that had gone in the river. But, when they got there the guy was alive and laughing and telling them how big his God was." She then went on to say, "tonight when I get home I am going to tell him, "You may have picked him up but I am his nurse!"
I had about every test done that's possible . My file is a case study at the hospital and many of the doctors around the hospital stopped by to say "Hi!" They were amazed that with a core temperature in the 80's no damage was done to any organs and that I never lost consciousness.
According to the world I should not have survived. On March 6, 1968, nine elite Marines trained as water survival instructors at the Marine Corp Physical Fitness Academy, capsized while paddling a war canoe across the Potomac River. They wore sweat suits and they had seat cushions but no life jackets. The temperature was 36 degrees Fahrenheit. None of these men were able to swim the 100 yards to shore. This is the bluntest of messages for all of us.
Doctors stand amazed and just say I'm one lucky guy to be alive!
Yes, I am but it's not luck. God spared my life once again. He is the reason I am alive today. He showed me His power in a very real way. Friend, God wants a personal relationship with you.
River Dan's Guide Service (651) 503-6624
This weekend River Dan will be holding his 7th Annual "It's Great To Be Alive" party for his family and friends.