The Day I Almost Died

Almost Did; Grateful That I Didn’t.

 

Thanksgiving: A Reason to Voice Thanks

It was the spring of my senior year in high school, 1991.  I was 17. My parents were divorcing, and it was a difficult time.  Not that High School is a difficult enough time already; sure, let us add parents divorcing to the mix.

At some point I happened to mention to my High School friend Jon that my parents owned a timeshare at Pueblo Bonito in Mazatlán.  Jon’s parents overheard this, and thus began a dialogue of getting away and using my parents’ timeshare for free in exchange for Jon’s parents covering all my groceries while there.  We planned on it, and settled on spring break.

So there I was: 17, making a run for the border with my buddy and his parents down to Mexico to spend a week and get away from it all.  Sun, surf, and spirits.  Being that the drinking age is 1, I had all the strawberry daiquiris a young illegal drinker could hope for.  Pina coladas…daiquiris…margaritas.  I was in Inebriated Heaven.  I am not a drinker by nature, except for water, as I have heard it is essential for survival.  Oh! And soda, because it is essential for survival.  Put those together, shake them up, throw in a little Mexican flair, and this 17-year-old was high on life with Mexican spirits.  I do not recall even having parents during this time.  I do not recall anything during this time.

Except for one thing.

Scaring crabs into the water with Jon.

Along the rocks off Sinaloa, there is a small outcropping that bends westward out over the water, providing a great view of a remote island, Isla de Pajaros, about 3000 feet away.  On the other side was Hotel El Cid Marina Beach: unbeknownst to me, just on the flip side of the hill, literally right over the rock wall, where my wife and I would vacation in 2014.  I had no idea it was so close: just a stone’s throw away.  Note: You should not throw stones at Mexicans.  Additional note: You should not throw stones at anyone.

Along these rocks, Jon and I would scare small crabs out towards the precipice, at which point they would fall, or, much more humorously to adolescents, launch out into the water out of pure fear of us.  We were laughing our heads off while making sudden lunges at them and inciting a noteworthy tiny leap out into the Pacific Ocean.

It was at that point that we noticed a tiny rock tip sticking out of the ocean to our west, about 100 feet away.  That was when we had it:

The Crazy Idea.

 

Oh For The Love of Money

Crazy Ideas can end badly.  Oh what people will do for money.  Voiceovers are a terrific example of crazy things people will do for money. 🙂

I am shaking my head now, just like I shake my head every single time I think back to this ridiculous stunt.

There on the rocky outcropping, I asked Jon how much he would bet me that I would not dive out and swim to the rock tip 100 feet away.  Jon pulled out his Mexican money and offered 2000 pesetas.

If memory serves, back then 2000 pesetas was around $6.50 USD.  Six and a half dollars.  To dive into the ocean.  Without knowing where the sharks were.  Or jellyfish.  For six and a half dollars.  Today, $6.50 is worth $13, or, two Starbucks coffees for the price of my life.

Stupidity is no respecter of 17-year-old persons.

So, at 17, yours truly left the West Coast and entered the Pacific Ocean to swim out to a tiny dot about a third of a football field away.  As I swam, no matter how I used my potent adolescent muscles – by which I mean there were none because I majored in band and not football – the waves continued to buffet me and slide me to the right and then the left.  The water was deceptively strong.  I would have to breaststroke right, and then left, and then right, correcting my course as I went.

I happened to look off to the left and noticed some diver a few dozen feet away – we had not noticed him before – and he was yelling at me and gesticulating with his hands.  I could not understand what he said, as he appeared to be yelling in Spanish, which is a language wherein I only know the words taco and mild sauce.  Had I known what "2000 pesetas" meant, I might not be swimming for my life right now.  He was running his right hand over his left forearm, whatever that meant, although the word jellyfish curiously entered my mind at this time.

I barely know Spanish, buddy.  Let's leave Sign Language out of this, yeah?

I made it to the lip of the rock, barely touching it, as my only desire was to make like the Beatles and get back to where I once belonged.  I turned around to swim back, and as I did so, I sucked in a quick, fearful breath: I had never seen land so far away before.  For whatever reason, it was as if the Mexican coastline had suddenly receded, and the length of my return swim had doubled.  There I was, with only one option: swim back.  My heart was pounding, and I just knew I was going to be thrown up into the air in the jaws of a shark who had started his fiery ascent from fifty feet below.  17-year-old-stupid is a delicacy, I hear.

After much effort, I finally made it back.  The diver was now to my right, and he was a bit closer now, as if he was intending to survey my progress.  Lord, please let sharks live divers more. There was a small bit of rock sticking up about 5 feet up from the water, then a canal of about 3 feet, and then there was the mainland rocks Jon and I had been on, about 10 feet above the water.

What happened next will never leave me.

I had no sooner placed my right foot up on the lower rock to climb up, and my left arm up on the higher rocks to pull myself up, than a wave came in and threw me backwards into the rocky canal.  I was literally upside down, end-over-end, with my arms feebly clawing for a grip.  I was mercilessly scraped against both sides of the small canal I was in.  How I didn’t get knocked out and drown is absolutely beyond me.  Drowning is, beyond any other manner, the way I fear dying most.  This is why I bathe not.

Before I knew it, the counter wave came in from the other side of the canal, flipping me over again, and throwing me once more back into the open water, scraping me up all over again.  I was now back about twenty feet from the big rock.  Bleeding.  You know, blood in the water.

Hi, Sharks.  Welcome.

Six and a half dollars.

Miraculously, a local came running up with a life ring, and threw it out to me on a rope.  He and Jon pulled me up - how I do not know - straight up the rock, avoiding the canal.  For extra fun, I stepped on a sea urchin on my way up, planting my right foot firmly against 30 spines which embedded at least a half-inch into my foot.  I did not even register this until I was back up on the rocks.  I laid down.  Bleeding, but safe.  Finally safe.  Uneaten.  Poked through by sea urchins, scratched up beyond belief, coughing up seawater, bleeding…but safe.

Six and a half dollars.

17-year-olds should not be allowed to bet.

 

Grateful to Be Alive

Last week was Thanksgiving, and that means we Americans are required to reflect on how grateful we are.  For me, that is not a requirement; it comes naturally.  At 48 years old, I have now lived about doubly as long as I would have had I died that day.  I was 17.  31 years later, I am 48.  There will be a math quiz later.

I had to go the hospital and have each and every spine pulled out.  If you have not had sea urchin spines extracted from your feet, I recommend it.  Best time ever.  The nurse kept asking meanestesia?” in Spanish – but I confess I could not hear or understand her thick accent through my tears and howling, and I am afraid it never dawned on me that she was asking me if I wanted anesthesia.  I just kept telling her no.  When an English-speaking physician finally came in the room and asked me, incredulously, “You really don’t want anesthesia???” I remember turning to the nurse with eyes wide open and screaming “SI!!  POR FAVOR!!! SI!!!!”

Oddly, the anesthesia needle hurt more than pulling out the spines.  Stupid nurses.  Sorry, Michael Apollo Lira.

I will never forget the ordeal.  I even submitted this story for the Drama In Real Life section of Reader's Digest.  They did not reply.  No one cares about 17-year-olds.

48 years is a long time.  But to think my life could have ended at 17 with one bad hit on a rock underwater…to think that I would have missed my life, my wife, my sons, our home, my family, voiceovers, success, and the pathetic 2021 Seahawks season …wow.

I am a very grateful person by nature, and I intentionally look for things to resound gratitude for to my Lord and Savior Jesus.  My wife and I have a “Gratitude Board” up on our fridge to recall something that we’re grateful for daily.  Sometimes, when we cannot think of anything else, or we have already listed nearly everything, we will simply write “air”.  Or “all four limbs.”  Or “being alive.”

If you have all four limbs, you already have a lot to be grateful for.  Consider Nick Vujicic of Life Without Limbs.  The man has no arms, no legs, and one flipper.  He is an inspirational torso.  He is a light in this crazy dark world.

I encourage you this Thanksgiving and this holiday season: be a Nick.  Be a light.

Be undyingly thankful.  For blessings.  For family.  For air.  For peace.  For freedom.  And, of course, for anesthesia.

Be grateful you are even alive.  I bet you six and a half dollars you will forget to do so in a week.

Blessings and THANKS,

Josh Alexander

 

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Joshua Alexander
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18 thoughts on “The Day I Almost Died”

  1. Oh my goodness! What a story of survival and a great look into the male teenage brain! As the mother of a boy around the same age, I am scared. Very scared! $6.50!

    I’m glad that you lived to tell this story, Josh!!

  2. DAAAAAAAAAAMN!!!!!!! That sounded dangersous indeed…..sorry, Josh, that you had to go through that! Looks like u made it through okay though. Lay off the too-many-margaritas next time, ehhh?

  3. Another fun & inspirational blog post, Josh. I have also experienced events which might have killed me and it does tend to change your perspective. You are right—even when in the midst of hardship, we are surrounded by blessings which could and should spawn gratitude.

    I will be visiting Florida soon, so will seek out a sea urchin to step upon so I can experience the best of times like you did. Thank you for the recommendation!

    1. My pleasure! Opt for the longer-spined ones if you can: they do more damage and cause more pain in the end, so you get a fuller, richer experience. And yes! I know you know and can relate…you were just writing about what doesn’t kill you makes your stronger. Or, sometimes, what doesn’t kill you leaves you in a vegetative state dependent on nurses and machines to keep you alive even though you’ll be dribbling when you smile for the rest of your miserable existence. One of those two, I can’t remember.

  4. 17 you’re invincible right? So of course you’re alive! Great story. Your gratefulness is contagious! Keep sharing!

  5. Nick being an inspirational torso was my fav part, HAHAHA! He came to our school when he released his first DVD called Life Without Limbs. It was so cool! He told a friend of mine not to break his arm, LOL!!! I didn’t catch her reply, but it was great! He’s got a great singing voice too, so I hope he does more music somewhere down the line – away from rocks and canals of course.

    I almost died a few times. I think the scariest one I won’t share here, but I almost drowned at least twice. The worst one for me was actually when we were on holiday by the sea and I got stuck in one of those sudden currents close to the shore and I actually coughed up water when I got out – some people who could stand where I was pulled to helped me back to shore (I was like 6 or something – very small grade 1 baby chil’ lol). I think I actually ended up behind the waves, but decreased levels of oxygen did make it a bit blurry, lol. Not afraid of water though – I LOVE being *safely under water. I also prefer a bath over a shower. I’ve had the most incredible dreams of being underwater during heavily rough seas and it wasn’t scary at all, just very surreal – like slow turbulant wind under a tent – so odd.

    Very glad you were spared for us!

    1. And we are very glad you were spared for us as well! Crazy. The ocean is no joke! I love what Steven Wright the comedian says: “Sometimes I like to fill my bath up with water and lay in it and turn the shower on and pretend like I’m in a submarine that got hit.” A great, healthy and save activity to be in water and not die!

  6. Gosh!!! I felt my heart pulsating in my heels! I am obsessed with ocean, sea and water in general, but same as having a massive fear for it plus can’t swim!! I can not believe you were not scared of sharks and jelly fishes! Brave, bold and a bit crazy! That’s what creative and successful people are x

  7. Great story and well told. I look back on my childhood and I didn’t even need money to do stupid stuff. Just a gentlemen’s handshake. Teenage boys are the dumbest creatures on earth. Period.

  8. Great story Josh! As a recovering untouchable, asinine teen and now mom of an 11 and 12 year old, I am hopeful that somehow there was some sort of genetic miracle that happened with them both in the womb and maybe, juuuuust maybe, they will will be the first children to not have inherited the teen gene and will be pillars of the community who only make well thought out, non-reckless decisions. Or at least do it for more than $6.50…. I know, I know, you don’t have to say it – they’ll do it for less 🙄 But to your point of being grateful, my reckless high school/college friends and I constantly remind one another how thankful we are that cell phones didn’t exist in our day… I mean, can you imagine???

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