Jimmy Moriatis says he was minutes away from death when he was pulled from the frigid waters of the Douglas Channel Oct. 15 in an unsuccesful attempt to swim from Kitamaat Village to Hospital Beach.
Moriatis, 51, who attempted the crossing to raise money for the Aluminum City Telethon the same day, said he got about halfway or 2.2 kilometres over the course of 50 minutes before asking to be taken out of the water by those in a rescue boat that was pacing him.
“I was so cold. I had severe hypothermia. The people in the boat said I was about five to seven minutes away from dying,” Moriatis said Oct. 17, recounting his experience.
Moriatis said his mistake was entering the water without an Artic-rated scuba diving type head covering to keep his head warm and to prevent heat loss.
Instead he wore a water polo-type cap that was too large. He also chose not to coat himself in petroleum jelly as one way to prevent body heat loss.
“I knew I was in trouble right away, as soon as I entered the water,” said Moriatis who added that his inner spirit wouldn’t let him abandon the attempt.
He explained that he tried to swim while keeping his head out of the 7 degree water, something that impaired his ability at smooth strokes and which then put a strain on his neck.
The result was not only severe cold but the inability to make headway to successfully complete the 4.6 kilometre crossing.
“I couldn’t feel my toes. My jaws were clamping shut,” said Moriatis of the few minutes before making the decision to have the rescue boat pull him out of the water.
He said he went into convulsions once in the boat as blankets were wrapped around him to restore heat to his system.
“I’ll tell you this. While I was in convulsions I never felt so alive.
“My appreciation of life now has grown ten-fold. I’m grateful for my life, for being alive.”
Once ashore, Moriatis was taken in an ambulance to the hospital in Kitimat but says that once he warmed up, he left barely an hour later.
“I was home soon after having hot chocolate,” he said.
And although Moriatis did not complete the swim, he’s thankful for the people who donated to his attempt.
He’s not had a final count yet but estimates he raised at least $5,000 for the telethon.
“There were kids, high school kids, giving me $2 or $5. I’m proud of the people of Kitimat,” said Moriatis.
Moriatis says he plans another attempt to cross the Douglas Channel next May, this time in support of cancer runs taking place in Kitimat and Terrace.