by Jim Teisher
On Monday, June 22, I went swimming at Clackamas Cove, as I had done several times before. Since I was swimming alone, I usually try to find someone to pair up with for a swim, but there weren’t any other swimmers that day, so I swam back and forth about 50 yards from shore. I know I shouldn’t swim alone, but I swim well enough that I could swim 50 yards with one arm or one leg if I got into trouble and needed to swim back to shore. So, I swam there going back and forth for about an hour that day. Everything was fine.
The next day, Tuesday, I went back and met a fellow United States Masters Swimmer (USMS) swimmer, Tim Waud, and a friend of his for another swim at Clackamas Cove. We would swim for a little bit, stop and talk for a while, then swim a little more. We had been in the water for about an hour, and we made our last stop before swimming the last 100 yards into shore. We talked for a little while, and the next thing I knew I was in the hospital. I had had a cardiac arrest. My heart had just stopped. Just prior to that I had felt fine. I had no symptoms. I did not feel lightheaded or have any numbness in any of my limbs. I felt fine.
I think of myself as a rather good swimmer. I have been on a USMS team for about 30 years, and I am a USMS certified level II coach. Several times I have been ranked in the top 10 in the nation in my age group in pool meets, but what I really enjoy is open water swimming. Oregon Masters Swimming hosts a series of open water swims every summer, and I have competed in many of those in the last 15 to 20 years. I have also done the Portland Bridge Swim twice. That is swimming from the Sellwood bridge to St John’s bridge. I have done it twice, once solo and once as part of a relay. I have done the Alcatraz swim, swam across Crater Lake, and done the English Channel as part of a relay. The only one where I wore a wet suit was Crater Lake, and that was only because the organizer required it. In preparing for the English Channel we did cold water training. I did one short swim in 48° water and several 1-hour swims in 52° water, and yes, I wasn’t wearing a wetsuit. On Tuesday, the temperature in Clackamas Cove was about 68°.
In the past I have always tried to find someone to swim with. But if I couldn’t find someone to swim with, I didn’t let that hold me back. Now my views have changed. From now on, I will always find someone to swim with, or not get in the water.