In September of 2012 Everett Olafson of Wasa was buried when a sand dune at Koocanusa collapsed. Now three years later, he has had time to reflect on that day and what it meant.
For the Townsman
September 1, 2012, looked like any normal day: a clear sky, warm water, kids playing in the sand. I didn’t expect anything to happen. But it did. While digging in a sand dune at Koocanusa Lake, something above me collapsed. I was buried under a bank of sand. I remember screaming for help, then thinking, “What the heck are you doing, Everett? Sand is sound proof.” But I screamed again anyway.
The next thing I remember, I’m running through a forest, away from the shadow of a red-eyed, black frog. I fall into a tree, into a blob of beige Jell-O. I push and slap my through, and fall into space, where I float into nothing. I swim through a golden gate and into a page of Eye Spy, where suddenly everything is clouds. I fly through and door and walk on the ground. Two guys are eating their lunch on a skyscraper beam. I ask them, “what are you building?”
“We’re building a building,” they say.
“You’ll have to wait and see,” they respond. “You’ll have to wait and see.”
I didn’t wake up until September 8, a week later. At one moment, I was dreaming on morphine, and in the next blink, I was in a hospital room, my Dad by my side, my body wired to machines, tubes stuffed up my nose, needles in my veins, and everything a little hazy. I had been in a medically-induced coma, so the sand that flooded into my lungs could be suctioned out. It would be another week before I was released from the Edmonton Children’s Hospital. My doctor said I was one in a million. No one had ever recovered so quickly from being buried alive.
Two and a half years later, while sitting my English class, we were asked to complete an assignment about people who made a difference in our lives. Just thinking about this — knowing that if so many people hadn’t helped me — I wouldn’t be doing this assignment, brought me to tears. For the first time in almost three years, I cried.
After all these years, I never felt I had a real chance to thank the people who helped me. Sorry if I forget anyone. So here I go…
1. My brother, Leith: “I can’t imagine what you went through. I would have died without you. You dug yourself out, and then frantically dug for me. After finding my hand, you screamed for help and adults came to dig me out. While they waited for the helicopter, you watched your brother unconscious, not breath, his lungs filled with sand.
2. Quinten Dudley and Spo: Thank for responding so quickly and digging me out from the sand. Without your help, I wouldn’t be here to write this.
3. Ma Dudley: As a retired nurse, you knew how important it was to get oxygen into my lungs. Thank you for getting me breathing again. I can’t imagine how traumatizing that was.
4. Ashley Dudley and Mandie: Thanks Ashley for calling 911 and keeping calm to help. Mandie thanks for taking all the other kids away so they weren’t scared.
5. The random campers on the beach that provided exact GPS coordinates to 911. And the boys that cleared a landing spot for the helicopter.
6. Fernie Ambulance: thanks for getting to me and providing care until the helicopter came.
7. Bighorn Helicopters and STARS Air Ambulance: Thank you for flying me to Calgary and Edmonton so quickly, where I received the medical care I needed.
8. Edmonton/Calgary medical staff: Thanks for all the amazing treatment you gave me. I wouldn’t be here today without you.
9. Grandma Crystal: Thanks for driving my Mom to Calgary then picking up my Dad and brining them to Edmonton.
10. Bumpa: Thanks for looking after Leith the whole time we were away in the hospital.
11. Wasa Lions: Thank you for the enormous energy you put into the fundraising campaign (pancake breakfasts, spaghetti dinners, and the donations you collected) to help my parents pay for all the medical expenses like hotels and flights. I can’t imagine the burden it would have been on them without your help.
12. Auntie Carla and Uncle Darcy and all my cousins: Thanks for visiting me in the hospital every day. Even though I don’t remember the first week. And for taking care and feeding my parents supper every night.
12: My parents: I want to thank you for staying strong during this emergency. I can’t imagine what you went through watching your son so close to death.
After all these years, I’ve been able to do many things, thanks to all the people who helped me. As I was released from hospital I was left with many things: a two inch scar on my neck, where my blood was drained, oxygenated and pumped back into my body and an enormous gift of gratitude for the people who made such a huge difference in my life. To those people, I thank you so much.