While in high school and beyond, my husband and I did quite a bit of boating on the rivers around Pittsburgh. It seemed like every weekend in the summers while on summer break that we spent our time cruising the Allegheny River with our group of friends. We had two close friends that owned boats so we did a lot of tuning and even water skiing. For all of the numerous times that we spent on the river and for some of the stupid things we did as teenagers/college students, nothing terrible ever happened to any of us over the years of boating....... Of course, I am thankful for that. Erick's dad even ended up purchasing a second home on the Allegheny River in which we frequented often in the summers after marriage and even after Olivia's birth. He too bought a boat and we would fish and cruise on it every time we were there. Olivia too also began to love the river and hanging out of the boat with us as she too loved to fish and explore nature on the river.
When my uncle asked us if we wanted to go for a boat ride on the St. John's River on that day in March, I couldn't have imagined anything but fun. It started out that way though. We slowly took a few spins out on the river Olivia, my dad, and I just chatted with my two cousins and my uncle. We weren't out very long until we decided to head back to dock because it was getting close to dinner and then this is where it all goes wrong. My cousin, who has driven this boat before, takes the wheel and we head back to the dock. The dock is different than the ones on the Pennsylvania rivers. These docks are all stationary. Docks on the Allegheny River sit on top of the water whereas the wooden dock that we would park were on are wooden pillars that are drilled into the earth beneath the water. I learn later that the tide changes so much in Florida that they are build this way because of the tidal changes. As we head back to the dock, my uncle is sitting in front of the drivers seat and Olivia is in front of the passenger seat in the open bow of the boat. As my cousin tried to "park" along side the dock, the wind started to pick up and she wasn't able to slide the boat in so she reversed and tried again while my uncle instructed her. I don't remember how many times she tried. She then went to reverse away from the dock but instead of putting the gear in reverse, she accidently put it into drive and we slammed into the dock. It happened to fast. My uncle, who had been standing in the front of the boat, put his hands up to protect himself from hitting the dock. At the same time, he glass of the passenger side window shattered. I remember saying, "Holy shit!"
I was sitting in the very bak of the boat with my other cousin and then ran to see Olivia laying on the floor of the boat. Her eyes were closed and her hands were peacefully resting on the belly. I immediately yelled towards the house, "Call 911!"
Olivia started to groan and moan as I held her in my arms. I thought that she was in pain because her left upper arm was swollen and her breathing was weird. In my mind, she had a broken arm and perhaps some cracked ribs....... My one aunt was on her cell phone with 911 while my other aunt came onto the boat and held me while I held Olivia. I looked at my aunt and told her that I was scared. She was too. There was no blood........ there were no tears....... but then things started to turn for the worse. Olivia started to seize. OH MY GOD. I shoved my finger in her mouth because I started to think she couldn't breathe. I was going to give her mouth to mouth but her jaw clamped down on my right pointer finger and I heard this awful gurgling sounds coming from her. I tried to open her lips and blow air into her mouth. Looking back, nothing was going to save my little girl at this point.
Just then, I heard a strange man's voice. It was the first responders. He jumped on the boat and another woman did as well. The woman asked how long Olivia was in the water. We told her that Olivia was never in the water. The man looked at Olivia and said, "We need to go.". He swooped up Olivia into his arms and RAN off of the dock to the ambulance. I followed. The paramedics didn't allow me to be in the ambulance with Olivia. Looking back, I think I can see why.
My dad and I followed the ambulance in our rental car to the hospital. When I worked at Pitt, one of my co-workers was also a paramedic. I remember him telling me that it was never a good idea to go through red lights if your a family member following an ambulance. Well, screw that. While following the ambulance, I let out a blood curdling scream in the car as my dad recited the Hail Mary prayer. Neither did any good. Once we arrived at the hospital, we waited outside of the ambulance before a nurse came and assorted us to a private room. My dad asked the nurse if there was a place for me to get washed up....... I went into the bathroom and looked at my face in the mirror. I had Olivia's blood on my lips and on my grey tank top. I must have washed up but I don't truly remember.
To be continued........