Burned but not Burned Out
Saturday was an amazing day. Along with Mary O’Keefe, her daughters Molly and Jessy and my husband Steve and our sons Matthew and Danny, I was at Huntington Beach for the second of three Life Rolls On – They Will Surf Again events being held in SoCal this year (the first was at Santa Monica and the next one is on Sept. 12 in La Jolla).
My first LRO was the one in Santa Monica when I merely observed the hundreds of volunteers escorting dozens of paralyzed and injured people into the surf on specially built boards. There were volunteers who worked the deep water, the mid-level water and the shallow water. There were also volunteers on land that coordinated with the water volunteers to keep to a time schedule. After seeing the Santa Monica event in May I was eager to take on a role as a land volunteer at Huntington Beach on Saturday.
Getting up at 5:45 in the morning to make it to Huntington was not my idea of heaven, however; I love my sleep. But I did drag myself out and, with the help of some coffee, was ready to work when I arrived with Mary and her daughters.
Mary and I quickly took on the jobs of signing in the volunteers – hundreds were signed up, which was a good thing since there were over 100 surfers. There were seven volunteer teams divided into colors – orange, red, pink, etc. – and each surf volunteer was assigned to a team. Each team had a leader. For the past couple of years, Mike Leum of Montrose Search & Rescue led the purple team, so we all made sure to sign up for that team. In the water along with Mike were his sons Garret and Hunter; wife Nancy was taking pics from the shoreline. Paul Dutton, who heads up our local CERT organization, was also in the water. It was his second LRO event, too.
Time passed quickly. The first surfers took to the boards around 10 a.m. and by 4 p.m. we were just about done. In that time we learned the stories of some of the surfers. One was a former famous surfer who hit a sand bar at the Wedge in Newport, paralyzing him. He hadn’t been in the water since the late ’90s. There was Rosie who came on her own. She was a petite woman who told the volunteers who were escorting her out on the board how nervous she was. The smile on her face as she rode that first wave in was absolutely beautiful and brought tears to my eyes. Trina was an old hand at LRO and welcomed by name the volunteers who carried her out. Channing just wanted to be in the water.
It was a fantastic day for most everyone … with few exceptions. One volunteer was stung by a stingray, which were plentiful in the warm surf. My boys said they each think that they stepped on either a sand shark or stingray; they could feel it skitter away from them.
While I wasn’t stung by anything that I’m aware of, there was (as goes the saying) “something in the water.” Though I was obviously sunburned (though not terribly), on Sunday my left foot swelled up, turned bright red and was difficult to walk on. A trip to the recently opened Urgent Care Center on Verdugo Boulevard (over by the Radio Shack and Burger King) quickly determined that there was something wrong and I was prescribed an antibiotic and steroid. I’m happy to report that I can pretty much walk normally again and the swelling is going down.
Even with this deterrent, I’m looking forward to LRO in La Jolla on Sept. 12 and may even be a shallow water volunteer. I’ll just wear swim shoes.