Northern Beaches Council Lifeguard Dee Why Beach
A MAN has returned to Dee Why Beach, Northern Beaches, Sydney to thank the people who provided first aid spinal techniques after a terrifying ordeal in which he floated paralysed while struggling for air between waves.
Pooyan Shargh, 32, paid tribute to council lifeguards Sean Woolnough and Scott Mortimer, without whom he probably would have died.
“Thankfully, these gentlemen came and helped, and the first thing I said was, ‘I’m dying, I’m dying’,” Mr Shargh said.
Mr Shargh, 32, went bodyboarding but, on his first wave, went headfirst into the sand, suffering excruciating pain.
“Next thing I noticed, I was paralysed,” he said.
“I was underwater — I couldn’t even feel my legs. I knew straight away something had happened to my neck. I was struggling to breathe, struggling to stay afloat. I thought then. I’m not going to make it.
“Somehow, I managed to get on my back. I was just floating — I was drinking in a lot of water with every wave.”
Shockingly, he said people swam right past him and observed him floating on his back but did not stop to check if he was OK.
Mr Woolnough, 38, was the first to respond to the incident, on May 21.
He was in the lifeguard kiosk with Mr Mortimer when they noticed Mr Shargh floating on his back less than 10m offshore.
“We were watching him. We didn’t actually see anything happen and he was on his back, with his arms by his side — he drifted in towards a rip and someone even walked past him and just looked down,” Mr Woolnough said.
Mr Woolnough said he noticed Mr Shargh’s facial expressions were odd as he approached him on a paddleboard.
“Straight away I knew that it was a spinal problem,” he said
“I could stand so I actually got rid of my board and just floated him, because I didn’t want to move him that much.”
Mr Mortimer, 47, and two off-duty lifeguards assisted in the water with a spinal board to stop Mr Shargh moving too much.
Mr Shargh was even handed back his bodyboard from lifeguards who retrieved it as part of the service.
“If it wasn’t for you guys, I never would have seen my family again,” Mr Shargh said.
“I just want to say how proud we are to have you guys around, watching over us and saving lives.”
Iran-born Mr Shargh, who moved to Dee Why five years ago, urged others to learn from his experience and not go into the surf alone.
“My mistake was going alone, especially me, or anyone that is foreign and probably less experienced than some locals, you definitely have to go with a partner and you have to try to swim within the flags, that is so important,” he said.
Northern Beaches Council aquatic services executive manager Peter Livanes said efficiencies created from the merger of the three former councils — Manly, Warringah and Pittwater — meant it could keep lifeguards on patrol longer.
“Lifeguard presence meant our team were able to respond immediately and provide the highest level of care,” Mr Livanes said.
Mr Mortimer said that changes in shifts meant they were stationed at Dee Why during winter this season.
“This time of year, normally lifeguards are gone but we are staying longer now, just because it has been busier, winter is getting warmer.
“We are here on the weekends — two years ago we wouldn’t have been here,” Mr Mortimer said.
“The old mentality was we used to just watch the flags but now it is different — it is a whole-beach approach. We watch everything.
“You’ve got the playgrounds, surfers, bodyboarders, rock fishermen, not just the swimmers.”
“I’m extremely proud of the professionalism and work ethic of our team to keep the community safe,” he said. “The northern beaches has some of the best beaches in the world and our team strives to provide the highest level of beach safety to match.”
Simple Instruction provides Spinal training as part of our first aid and CPR training courses at the Dee Why RSL.
Originally published: http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/newslocal/manly-daily/bodyboarder-returns-to-thank-hero-lifeguards-after-crashing-headfirst-into-sand-at-dee-why-beach/news-story/97a3195d36e65ee22079d7d8e42fc46d