A Toronto man grateful to be alive is hoping to thank the people who helped him stay that way.
Lou Israel came very close to drowning while swimming at Sunset Point last week, when he received help from three bystanders who swam out to retrieve him and take him back to shore on a paddleboard.
Israel said he was at the Collingwood park on Wednesday, July 29, and at about 5 p.m. went back in the water. He stuck close enough to shore that the water was never higher than his five-foot-eleven height. But the waves were quite high that day.
Once Israel started to get a little tired, he turned around to walk back to shore. Israel is 60 and was suffering from a painful back injury that had recently flared up again.
He was struck by a wave and inhaled water through his nose and mouth. Before he could recover he was hit by another wave and more after that.
“I started taking on so much water, I thought, ‘I am in trouble,’” he said. “I couldn’t get my breath, couldn’t make any headway … but I refused to believe something terrible could happen in that shallow an area of water.”
He started calling out.
“I just screamed for help over and over and over again,” he said.
Three male swimmers – young adults – came to his aid and helped him onto a paddleboard they borrowed from a kid who was also at the beach at the time.
They walked him back to the shore where an ambulance and other emergency crews were waiting. A crowd was watching the rescue and Israel gave them a thumbs-up as he walked out of the water, each arm around a rescuer’s shoulders.
Paramedics provided first aid at the scene and took him to Collingwood General and Marine Hospital where he stayed for 24 hours for some follow-up testing.
“It looks like I should make a near-complete recovery,” said Israel, noting he was told by a doctor he was only about a minute away from drowning.
“I want to publicly thank the three volunteers who came to get me,” said Israel.
He didn’t get their names and doesn’t remember getting a good look at their faces.
“(My) faith in humankind had been waning over the last couple of years and (they) restored it,” said Israel.
As he replays the event, he still can’t believe he might have drowned, but he also doesn’t think he would have made it back to shore without their help.
If you were one of the three people who swam out to help Israel and you want to let him know, you can email email@example.com.