Costa Rica, family, life, travel

Gracias a Dios

Today is the five year anniversary of my near drowning in Costa Rica. Most people probably know what I’m talking about, but the original is posted in my account (blast from the past), I want to make sure that I keep what I wrote. I had titled the post “Gracias a Dios.” I posted two more times after that with brief updates. For the past 5 years, I have tried to neatly write up that day and what it has meant to me. But I have yet to wrap my mind around how to write about the day one little girl lost her entire family in one neatly written package.
I honestly coped incredibly well, that day and since then. I was incredibly calm during it (though I was hysterical once we arrived back at the hotel and I knew that I was truly safe) and despite some episodes of hating being in rain, I don’t have PTSD from the incident. I have thought about getting a tattoo of a bird across my ribs in remembrance of the day since only a few days after it happened. I originally had scrapes across my face and the back of my neck from pushing myself out from between a rock wall and a metal rope. I also was scrapped along my knees, elbows and ribs from being dragged up the rock wall when I was being saved.

I wanted a super full day to celebrate 5 years. I started with yoga, went to David’s new church for the first time, we went out for a nice, healthy lunch in Hillcrest and then I got… my first tattoo, in honor of the day. It was sadly not the experience I was hoping for, but such is life. More on that tomorrow. Then David introduced me to “Burning Love.” It is a most excellent spoof of “The Bachelor” by Yahoo. I super recommend it if you need a
little bit of ridiculousness in your life.

Anyway, here is what I wrote, 5 years ago:


July 9, 2007
Current mood:grateful

i just wanted to let everyone know that i am okay. i don’t know if the word has gotten around already.
yesterday i went rappelling through waterfalls with a tour group in costa rica. there were 8 people and two guides. it was a friend that i met here a family of four boys from about 8-13 years old and a five year old girl. It started pouring a we were stuck in a pool of water at the base of one waterfall and just before another one. I think we were stuck for hours. It was too deep to stand the water wouldn’t stop. All we had was one rope to hold on to. Everyone in the family died except for the little girl. Her father held her for a long time and then he couldn’t fight anymore so i took her. One guide let go of the rope and went down the waterfall to call for help. they said he was really banged up but he made it alive and got a rescue group for us. the other guide tried to hold up two of the boys, but the water got too high and they died. the water kept coming and i was up to my neck so the guide took “reina” (the little girl, i don’t know her name, but her family kept calling her reina as a nickname, which means queen). the guide and i would talk sometimes in spanish to give each other hope and reina was so strong. she fought for so long and never let go of me. we heard people yelling. it took them a long time to set up a safety system to pull us out. then they pulled us onto this embankment, but it still took a while to find a way to get out of there. Reina fell asleep in my lap after i told her she would get off the pretty mountain and go home soon. I was so freezing and couldn’t stop shaking and our saviors took off their shirts to cover me and one man gave me shoes because mine were torn off by the current. Eventually the rain stopped so they made us go back down the waterfall but we each had two guides helping us a rope that went all the way down. They were going to make us climb over the bodies, but when my friend and i started to cry, they moved them before they made us go down. once out of the waterfall, we had to ride horses for 20 minutes to the lodge. the people at the hotel/lodge were so amazing and everyone was hugging us and checking on us every few minutes. they brought us dry clothes and towels and hot tea and cookies. everyone kept holding us and after they got back, the guides talked to us and told us that they had saved the bodies of the family and that they all looked peaceful together. the guide who i was with in the water said thank you, for what i’m not sure, maybe for staying calm.
we are fine now, just bad bruises and cuts covering our body. we’re going to a hospital soon to get checked out and to get sleeping pills so that we can rest. as scary as it was, i knew i would make it alive. i never thought that i was going to die. i know God was with me and i’ve never felt so calm.
i know i left a lot of details, i’ve just told this so many times. i know that it is in costa rican news, i think that it won’t make us news. soon some people are going to take us to the hospital and then to our host families’ homes and then we’re going to church. i think that i am going to stay in costa rica for the next five weeks as planned, but i’m pretty sure i have a pretty huge fear of water and possibly rain now. if anyone wants more details, you can talk to my family or david or lori. please pray for reina. she’s a strong little girl, i know that she’ll be okay and she has a lot of extended family who came last night to pick her up (she is costa rican).
i love you all.

July 10, 2007
hello everyone,
thanks so much for your wishes. i don{t have the energy to respond to everyone right now individually. we went to the hospital yesterday and they made me stay over night. i had water in my lungs and they are fearful that i will get an infection. the doctor said that my lungs sounded better today so he discharged me, but i just have to watch out for persistent coughs. our cuts are already healing and the worst ones are bandaged up. i wasn{t as sad today and they gave me pain killers and sleeping pills, which have been calming me down. my costa rican family came to the hospital last night, as did my friend¨s family, as well as the director of the school, a man from the hotel, and a woman from the adventure company so we had lots of people around to love us.
it is huge news in costa rica. apparently my host family found out because there was footage of me riding back on the horse to the lodge from the base of the waterfall. the funeral was today but i couldn{t go. the guide who i prayed and talked with during the accident called me in the hospital last night. he doesn{t think that reina knows yet. i don{t know if she went to the funeral. there have been long stories about how well liked the family is.
i am now thinking about coming home in 1.5 weeks, which would bring me home 3 weeks early (i am supposed to switch to a home and a school near the beach in 1.5 weeks, but i don{t know if i can handle being near the water any more).
the people here have been truly wonderful. the guides (who were with us and the ones who saved us) will always be my heroes. please pray for them as well.
thanks again for all the warm wishes. if anyone every visits costa rica, please send my love and thanks to tierras enomoradas, the hotel, or the san lorenzo adventure company. they are all incredible, incredible people.
i love you all.

July 21, 2012
i would like to let everyone know that i am now home from costa rica, after the most excruciatingly painful 24 hours of my life. instead of going home from the airport, i went straight to urgent care, to learn that i may have pneumonia, and MALARIA! turns out when the government says there is a very slim chance of getting a deadly disease, you should still take the vaccinations. it is not contagious (unless a mosquito bites me and then you). the doctor made it seem like as long as i do what he told me to do, it shouldn’t be much of an issue. however, the medicine will make me loopy and possibly hallucinate for 4 days, so if you call me and i don’t sound right, that is why.
i am SO grateful to be home now!

November 25, 2007
here’s an update 4 months later. i didn’t have malaria or pneumonia. the other woman who had been in the accident called me a week after I started to get sick (and had been well for 2 days) to tell me that she had just gotten out of the hospital for a 5 day stay with leptospirosis. so, i looked it up and realized that i had had all of the symptoms of it (fever, chills, vomiting, severe body pains… like to the point where you can’t sit up on your own, etc). The scary part was that it could go away for a while and you would feel better (like I was) and that it would come back deadly and cause meningitis, liver failure, renal failure, etc, etc. So anyway, I rushed to the doctor got tested and a week later got the results back that i did have leptospirosis. BUT I was lucky because if they catch it right away, than you are fine, if not, you can die (BTW, this is a very rare disease, at least in the U.S., like 150 people per year). So, even though they misdiagnosed me, the treatment for pneumonia and lepto are the same in the initial stages. So, long story short, I survived a second deadly episode, have been fine ever since and am oh so grateful!


For any of you House watchers- leptospirosis was a diagnoses or suspected diagnoses a couple of times- shows you how rare it is!

Here are two Costa Rican newspaper articles about the accident. The first is in English and the second is in Spanish.

!Gracias a Dios!

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