Canadian visitor’s SA ‘wave adventure’

2017-03-02 06:00
Willis Bowman recovers at Margate Hospital with his wife Diane by his side.

Willis Bowman recovers at Margate Hospital with his wife Diane by his side.

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WHAT started as a great South African adventure for a Canadian couple had a near tragic ending after a freak accident at Trafalgar Beach.

Willis and Diane Bowman arrived on the South Coast on January 3 to visit their friends, Stella and Brian McCarthy, whom they met through their Canadian bike club, the Northern Old Bastards Vintage Motorcycle Club. The McCarthy’s are members of the local Old Bastards Biking Buddies.

After experiencing the best of what KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape has to offer, and only two days before boarding their flight home, Willis injured his neck while swimming.

“Diane, Brian and myself went out for a morning beach walk, followed by a swim.

“Picking a large wave to body surf to shore was my error in judgment, 66 years old and thinking 26.

“The wave picked me up and shoved me headfirst into the ocean floor,” said Willis.

He said he felt the impact and floated face down in the water.

“I had no body response as my legs and arms were hanging below me and I could not move my head to get air.

I inhaled one breath of seawater and then a second. I was saying my goodbyes and still hoping for a rescue.

In what seemed like an eternity my friend and lifesaver, Brian, found me, rolled me over, performed a Heimlich manoeuvre and exasperated the water from my lungs,” said Willis.

He said the lifeguards have to be commended for responding quickly after Diane called them and for correctly immobilising him to prevent further injury.

“My training with the Canadian military First Aid Response allowed me to see that everything was done perfectly by those young men. Thank you to them.”

Willis is also thankful to the paramedics who responded in less than 12 minutes.

“Diane was in the ambulance when a lady tapped on the door and asked if she could be of any help. I heard Diane say ‘it’s okay’.

“Then the lady replied, ‘Could you use a hug?’ I heard my wife sob as they hugged. I teared up as I realised the caring of a stranger.

“ I can only hope she realises one day how much that gesture meant to us. Thank you.”

Arriving at the Margate Hospital, the assessment revealed he had no feeling in his legs or arms and was breathing with difficulty. After a battery of tests, Dr Marius Du Preez told Willis about an operation that was to take place to remove the balance of a crushed disc and repair the spine.

He was given six weeks to recover enough to be able to take the long flight home.

They leave on the second week of March.

“I did want to take an extended holiday in South Africa, though not under these circumstances.

The silver lining has been experiencing the genuine warmth, love, and friendliness of this coastal community.

An immense thank you to our wonderful friends Stella and Brian McCarthy,” said Willis.

He also extended thanks to Margate Hospital’s Trauma Unit, ICU, High Care, Surgical Ward, Dr Du Preez and all hospital caregivers and staff.

“When I return home I will be leaving a piece of my heart in South Africa.

“Diane and I will definitely return to your paradise.”

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