Back 2 Life - Saturday 13th August


On Saturday 13th August a free event is being held at the Watersplash to raise awareness of the RNLI Jersey Lifeguards.

During the summer of 2021 the RNLI Jersey Lifeguards were first responders to Michelle who suddenly became unwell at the Watersplash. Without their immediate response Michelle would not be here today.

Her partner, Wayne, has written a story of the events that day and is organising an event to raise awareness of the RNLI Jersey Lifeguards and raise vital funds so they can continue to save lives.

If you would like to make a donation to RNLI Jersey please click here.

Sunday 15th August 2021...

"It was a Sunday, 15th August 2021, we arrived at the Watersplash at about 2.30 in the afternoon, 1 Cider, 1 Glass of Wine relaxing in the sun at our favourite place, the sea was so calm, we chilled and began to work out what we were going to do for lunch. About 3.05 Michelle touched the side of her head, winced and let out a painful sounding ‘ooohh’, she lost consciousness immediately. I had my arm around her shoulders and her head fell onto my chest, I lifted her head and tapped her on the cheek a couple of times, thinking she had fainted. The couple at the table next to us had noticed what was going on and kindly asked if she was okay, when I replied that I didn’t know they asked if they should call an ambulance, my immediate response without even thinking was ‘yes, please’. Just a minute or so after this, three young guys came over to the table, it was the Lifeguards from the hut next to the Splash, someone had called them up from the beach. They asked what had happened and after I told them the situation, one of them said he was just going to give her some oxygen. He had with him a small canister of oxygen with breathing apparatus attached. He seemed a little apprehensive at first and it may have been because at that stage even I thought it may have been a little bit much, thinking in my own stupid head she had ‘just fainted’ and would come around soon on her own. How wrong was I.

The ambulance arrived somewhere around 20 - 30 minutes after her collapse, Michelle had only just began to regain consciousness at this point and she walked with assistance to the ambulance, confused as to what was going on around her. The ambulance took off, blue lighting it toward town. The Paramedic in the back introduced herself, she had laid Michelle down on the bed and was doing everything she could to ensure that she was as comfortable as possible, she lost consciousness again, the ride was bumpy as we were very obviously moving at some speed towards the hospital. I don’t think you realise when you’re sat in a car and you hear the ambulances siren that there is someone probably like I was that day, in the back, constantly urging and thinking drivers to just move out the way, just move out the way, the ambulance was shifting through the gears, slowing down, stopping, starting whilst trying to swerve past and through the traffic, I wanted her at the hospital as quick as possible and this just didn’t seem fast enough.

As we reached the avenue, Michelle suddenly had a severe seizure and her whole body tensed up in spasm, it was at this point it really hit home how serious this had become, I believed we were actually losing her, I was now in a complete and absolute nightmare, frantic with worry. The Paramedic banged on the back of the cab whilst she was simultaneously trying to calm down Michelle. The ambulance pulled over, I think it was somewhere along the avenue as the two guys from the front of the cab jumped as quickly as they could into the back as they tried to revive Michelle and bring her back around. I just sat there helpless whilst desperately just hoping with my entire being that they could sort her out. Now, with tubes everywhere and drip in, things were looking a lot more serious as they managed to stabilise her. The Paramedic held her hands under Michelles’ neck, keeping her airway raised, she spoke calmly to me telling me that she was okay now and then asked, ‘is this Michelle Walker?’ Yes, I said, ‘she was in my class at school’ she replied, I later was to find out that they also played netball together and hadn’t seen each other for years. As we reached the hospital there were staff waiting for us and as they rushed Michelle in through the back entrance, the kindly Paramedic said I should go around to the front, I mumbled my thanks to her and went to the A&E waiting room, where I just sat vacantly with her flip flops, her bag and her coat in my arms, just really empty and confused. Like anyone in that position would do, I went through the motions, pacing around, head overthinking, what had just actually happened, I had absolutely no idea, I became more frantic with every minute I wasn’t with her. The not knowing just seemed to go on forever, every minute was like an hour.

I called her sister up, her best friend and her son all from Michelles’ phone as I gave them news I knew that I definitely wouldn’t want to be hearing. I still didn’t know what was actually wrong with her, I tried not to let my emotions get the better of me whilst explaining the situation as best I could, I really didn’t want to distress them but how do you make them calls without worrying anybody? Her sister and her best friend came straight down to the hospital, I had told her son not to bother coming down as he would just be the same, worrying and pacing up and down like we all were, I knew he’d be feeling it worse than all of us. It was his Mum in there.

This had all happened at the Splash at about three o’clock in the afternoon, by around ten o’clock that night we were told that Michelle had suffered a large bleed on the brain and was being readied to be flown out to Southampton for emergency surgery. They told me, Michelle was sedated and that I could see her briefly before she was flown out, so I met up with her son and we drove to the house to collect her some overnight stuff, her phone charger, her passport...We got back to the hospital and waited in the waiting room. They called us in at about half eleven and led us through to see her, she was strapped with belts securely to a bed ready to be lifted out, she had been placed into an induced coma, I understand, to keep her vitals in check. The one thing me and her son both noticed was how peaceful she seemed, with not a single frown or line on her face, we gave her a kiss and said our goodbyes, we both didn’t mention it to each other but I’m certain we both thought the same thing, this could be the last time we see her alive. I told the attendant to make sure she got her phone, it had a screensaver of her two grandchildren, that she dotes on, I thought if she remembers anything when she wakes up it will be them two kids.

Southampton called me late that night, it was about two o’clock in the morning, they told me that she had arrived safely and that they were going to be doing some scans, the lady who called was really nice and understanding with me, she asked how I was feeling, she said that they had documents for me to look through and sign which would be sent across, that they would get the results of the scans, discuss them with the surgeon and call me back to let me know which way they would be proceeding. They said this wouldn’t be until around ten o’clock the next morning.

Ten o’clock came and went, eleven o’clock, twelve o’clock...I know they say no news is good news but I was tearing my hair out with worry by this point, not knowing what was going on had really stressed me out. As soon as one o’clock arrived I called Southampton, ‘Sorry we didn’t get back to you’, the lady said, ‘we got the scan results back and decided to go straight in, the procedure went well, she’s resting now’. I asked if they could make sure that when she woke up she had her phone by her and to let her know to call me as soon as she felt up to it, also explaining the significance of her seeing her screensaver, I was desperate for her to see a picture of the kids as soon as she woke up.

I really couldn’t believe they had already performed the proceedure, in my head, the hospital hadn’t called me because something was wrong, I feared the worst, the simple truth is that they were trying to deal with her condition. To say that Michelle had the aneurysm, had been diagnosed by Jersey hospital staff, had  been flew to Southampton, had more in-depth scans and then been treated within 24 hours is nothing short of brilliance on behalf of all the people involved with her case, absolute brilliance you have to just tip your hat to the dedication and professionalism of these people, each and every one of them. I had read up on things by this point, I was asked to make decisions on experimental treatments that could help them to help others in Michelles’ condition, I found it daunting, I’m not a Neurosurgeon but I do know Michelle and I just instantly knew that she’d be the first in the queue to want to do this to help other people in similar circumstances, in actual fact it was the one time I’d actually felt any use to anyone at all that day. I ran it past her family first and we made that decision together with her best friend, I think from that moment on, her family and friends were just trying to help each other get over and absorb the shock at what had happened to Michelle, as slowly word trickled out that she had been taken ill and was in Southampton Hospital.

Michelle had suffered a large bleed on the brain, termed a ‘Subarachnoid Hemorrhage’, an Aneurysm, two seizures. She had four coils inserted into her brain through a small incision in an artery in her groin, it is for more want of a word ‘unbelievable’ what they have actually done for her.

To be really truthful, I didn’t know what kind of Michelle I was going to get back from Southampton, I was warned and prepared for the worst before the op and so, I had since read up on the kind of long term damage commonly associated with this type of ‘Hemorrhage’, on what I should learn to expect with, well, brain damage! Slow, slurred speech, no speech at all, long and short term memory loss, drooping of muscles in her face, lack of coordination, limited use of legs and arms. I was basically waiting for the call from her that informed me whether I would be pushing Michelle around in a wheelchair and spoon feeding her for the rest of both of our lives. This was if, in fact she actually woke up at all, there were no guarantees at this point, I had to be prepared for anything and well yes, I found this particularly difficult to get my head around.

I can’t exactly say when it was, as time had sort of all merged into a mess in my life at this point but I did eventually receive a call sometime late the next day from her phone, I saw the number, I winced and tentatively said ‘Hello’ she replied ’ bring me gifts and chocolates, I broke down half laughing, half crying, you see, it was her, when you know someone, five words can tell you absolutely everything you need to know. She was there and I knew from that sentence that she was going to be okay, we were going to be okay.

After about two weeks in Southampton, I was told I could fly over to bring her home, nobody had been allowed in to visit as the covid regulations were in place at the time. I flew over, she couldn’t wait to get back to see her family, she was unsteady on her feet, her balance was off, she was muddled but most importantly, she was in good health and good spirits.

The people involved with her care at Southampton had done an amazing job and through my calls to their staff whilst she was over there, they had also cared for me too. Michelles’ workplace here, in Jersey have also been absolutely brilliant with the both of us and they have allowed her the necessary recovery time, to return at her own pace, they have been there for her every step of the way. We have since caught up with the Paramedic from the ambulance service and we both still can’t thank her and her team enough for putting themselves out the way they did, I’ll never forget that ride in the ambulance with them, I don’t say lightly that it will be imprinted on my brain forever.

In all of this recollection of thoughts, the most most important people to me in regard to Michelles care, were the three young Lifeguards at the Watersplash, that day. I really don’t think they, to this day, know what exactly it is that they have done. I definitely know they don’t know my story and that’s why I decided to write this, so that they do know, in fact I feel that they NEED to know this. So, let me tell them, let me tell their Parents, Grandparents, brothers, sisters, their friends, colleagues and their bosses exactly what those guys did and why you should be so proud of them right now.

They say that with the sort of trauma associated with what happened to Michelle, the first minutes are absolutely critical, brain cells start to die if they go without oxygen for just 3-4 minutes - and that's exactly what happens during a stroke. With each minute that passes, you lose about 2 million brain cells. The longer you go without oxygen, the greater your chance for brain damage that can't be undone. After about 10 minutes, the damage can be severe. After 15 minutes without oxygen to the brain the chances of survival are near enough nil. 20 minutes and you are basically dead.

If the Lifeguards at the Splash hadn’t administered Michelle with oxygen within that critical five minute period, Michelle would almost certainly have died that day, more than likely, within fifteen minutes of her initial collapse and so the ambulance crew on their arrival to the scene would not have had a living soul to save when they arrived and so the rest of the story doesn’t even get to occur. Her son would be without a mother, her two grandchildren would be without their ‘Nana Shell’, her two sisters would be missing their sibling and the amazing friends that she has would have lost, what I know is one of their dearest friends. My life obviously would have been a lot different too, in fact if she had actually survived without the oxygen it could have made life, in a lot of ways, even worse than if she had actually died, possibly my own life could have quite easily become unbearable, I had to face this possibility.

However, because of the oxygen they administered so quickly, Michelle walked into her Neurosurgeon six months after her operation and even he couldn’t believe that she had walked in with, not so much as a stick. He called her a miracle, her progress had been remarkable. She still calls herself a miracle now :). So, this is what these three young Lifeguards did for us that horrible day.

We still don’t know their names, nor the kind, thoughtful people who actually called them off the beach and called the ambulance for us. So look, we can’t just carry on regardless and allow what they did to be understated. My thinking is that if we didn’t do something like putting this event on, exactly a year from that particular weekend, then it would all be forgotten about and their deeds would probably just disappear as quickly as we did from them that day on Sunday August 15th 2021. For them it would have all been over within half an hour, for us, it was our lives.

I don’t write a lot, it’s just, I thought that maybe if I took the time out to say thank you properly to these guys then I could also hope that everyone who takes the time to read it can take away, that life, especially the time with your loved ones is rare and precious and that these very first seconds and the initial minutes for the teams of first responders are absolutely crucial to the people that they dedicate their lives to helping. Their role in the community is an absolute blessing and more importantly we are living proof that it is vital. The kindly Paramedic, through her knowledge of Michelle as a person, also, quite poignantly, brought home to me just how close the Jersey community actually is underneath its bustling ‘mini city’ facade.

So, I hope that, at this event on Saturday 13th August 2022 we can say our thanks to the people dotted all around our coastline, those who sit and watch over people on a daily basis and in our case, not even in the water or on the beach but simply sat outside the Splash enjoying the sun. We could be anyone, in fact, we are just anyone and that is the point, without these volunteers I do wonder what our lives would have become, they changed our fate.

We want to raise awareness of the great work they do. I don’t know if anybody else on this island has reason, cause or had similar experiences or maybe, even been, like us, in a position of  simply wanting an occasion to say thank you to these guys, we really hope that this event can provide an opportunity for the people of the island to raise a cheer and do just that. For them.

I have to lastly mention: A MASSIVE THANK YOU to all of the very kind souls who have given up their time and put so much effort into making this event happen, without any hint of charge, it couldn’t happen without the community here and we are so delighted it has. We hope to see you all here at the Watersplash on Saturday 13th August 2022 from 2pm."



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