Sarah Calvert

"It all falls away" Sarah Calvert

The beautiful life-giving--and taking--waters of Ometepe.

I’ve wanted to write all week, but I simply haven’t had the energy or wherewithal to sit and reflect about the really traumatizing experience that happened to me last Sunday afternoon here in Nicaragua. I wasn’t feeling the call to be online much, and kind of was a hermit for a lot of the week. I realize that talking about it and sharing is always a way to heal, and so I’m now ready to tell the story, because I know there is healing in sharing. 

Last Sunday morning, I headed into Moyogolpa, which is the port town here in the Island of Ometepe, where I’ve been living for the past month. I met up with my former Spanish teacher Augusto, from Jaco, Costa Rica, who was visiting his wife’s family in Rivas, on the mainland, which is close to the island. We met up, had a great catch up over breakfast, I met his in-laws and made some new friends and connections. The sun was bright, the breeze was more than pleasant, and I was cruising along on my brand-new motorcycle along the scenic road of the island. Perfection. 

After I left Augusto at the ferry, I followed the advice of his brother-in-law and headed to a small beach called Punta Jesus Maria, which is on a little point, about three kilometres from Moyogalpa. I just wanted to take advantage of being in a new place, park my butt down on a blanket and read my book in the shade. Book. Beach. Blanket. Coconut water. Ahhh…the life.

And then…the opposite of life. I was swimming lengths when I saw that a huge crowd had gathered on the beach. My years of being a lifeguard at Kitchi (my beloved camp) suddenly, for the first time in my life, were put to use. I furiously swam to shore and made my way to the centre of the crowd to see what was going on. There were two teenagers; one lying down, and the other trying to slap his back and shake him. The one lying down, had clearly not intentionally wanted to go in the water; he was fully dressed, and soaking wet, and was unconscious. I yelled at everyone to clear the space and make way, and not knowing what the word was in Spanish for “first aid” simply yelled, “Soy un medica!”, or “I’m a doctor,” which of course is not true, but I didn’t have time for semantics. With the help of his friend we began CPR and I gave him mouth to mouth recitation. His other friend was kneeling beside me and I asked him to feel the victim’s wrist for a pulse. I couldn’t find a pulse in his neck, but he was rather large, and in my panic, I didn’t want to be wasting time not doing CPR. His friend felt his wrist and said yes, he had a pulse. In retrospect, I’m not really too sure. I asked who had called the ambulance and someone said they had, so I knew we had to continue our efforts until they got there. Over twenty minutes passed, and still no ambulance. The police arrived, but they looked just as stunned as the rest of the crowd and humbly apologized that there were no doctors or ambulances available. What the fuck?! We decided to put him into the back of the police truck, and drive to the hospital which was about a 15-minute drive away. I sat in the back, continued doing CPR and breathing, all the while being tossed around on the bumpy dirt road, cutting my upper lip with his teeth, and trying to not fall out of the truck. Meanwhile, his father held his son’s head in his hands and cried. I think we both knew at that point, that my attempts were futile, but I had to continue until a doctor came onto the scene. I placed my hand on the father’s arm gently, and told him in Spanish, that it was okay. All he had to do was to talk to God and pray. Clearly, everything was not okay, but I felt that I needed to say something. The pain in that man’s eyes is something that I will never forget. His mother was in the front of the police car in shock and in tears, and her panic and sense of despair is something I can’t even put into words. 

The ambulance met us before we got to the hospital, and we transferred his body from the back of the truck to the ambulance. I asked the paramedic what she thought, and she said that she couldn’t locate any vital signs. Of course I knew this, and I had known that for perhaps most of the time I’d been trying to save a dead man. The mother beckoned for me to come to the hospital, but I was wearing only my bikini and was barefoot; I didn’t have the energy to go, so I let the family continue to the hospital, while I stood on the side of the road in shock. Across the road was a gas station so I walked across and put my face in my hands and for the first time, took a deep breath and began to cry. A man named Hector, who had witnessed the changeover, told me to sit down in his car, and he offered to drive me back to the beach to get my belongings. We stopped at his house along the way and his wife offered me some water. I had to get rid of the taste of the taste of vomit from the young man, along with the taste of my own blood, from where his teeth had hit my lip. 

Hector took me to the beach, where I found that one of the bathroom attendants, had taken my bag and all of my belongings during the time I was doing CPR, and kept them safe in her shack. I had several people approach me to see what had happened, and I just relayed that I wasn’t sure, and that he was at the hospital. One man came up and put his hands in prayer pose and bowed his head, telling me in Spanish that everyone appreciated how much I tried to help, and then wished that God would bless me. 

Still in shock, I headed back home stopping at a small store to buy gum, to once again try to get rid of the foul taste in my mouth. I stopped to use the washroom at a small restaurant, and thankfully ran into my friend Juan, who I had met the week before at his hotel. I just needed someone familiar to talk to. He nodded, held my hand and listened deeply while I shared my story. I then continued back to Bague, but stopped in at my friend Sat Tapa’s, who is also a Kundalini Yoga teacher. After I arrived, several people came by to buy her famous ice cream, and we all took three minutes to chant the mantra “Akal”, which basically means “deathless Spirit”, and which is used commonly in Kundalini Yoga, when someone passes. One of the ice cream kids brought a guitar, so I played, and together as a small group, we sang and prayed. I think at first a couple of them were freaked out. I mean, they probably had just smoked a joint and were coming by for ice cream and brownies, and instead find a tear-stained gal who just spent the last hour or so with a dead person. Not what they had anticipated, but they truly shared their energy and were open, and for this I’m grateful.

I’m also grateful for so much this past week. For the friends I’ve met thus far on the island who have been supportive with hugs and listening. For meeting new music comrades and having started a new band, with upcoming gigs at various venues. For the beauty and healing qualities of nature that surround me in my new home here in the jungle. I hear the waves lapping and often crashing on shore, and I think about Marvin Alvarez, the 16-year old who died last Sunday, with the lips of a stranger, and the prayers of many surrounding him as he crossed over to the other side. I found out his name the next day in a news article, and apparently I was on the news and someone filmed us in the back of the police truck. Not exactly what I had imagined for my Sunday leisurely afternoon. But then again, who can imagine anything that is to come? As I drove my motorcycle home, I was all the more aware that a pig or dog could run out at any moment, leaving me to fall off my bike, and then who knows? 

This week I’ve been reflecting upon how quickly this life can be taken from us. I’m so immensely grateful for all of the experiences I’ve had in these forty-four years thus far. I also have been thinking about Marvin, and the experiences that he never had. It’s been a week of many emotions, and the one that seems to be the most profound is gratitude. As always, it leads me away from despair, pity, sorrow and grief, into light and joy. Not to say I haven’t felt grief this week, because I have, but I am not buried in it, and I am reminded again and again that death is simply a part of living. Last night I went for a swim on my beach, and found a dead frog being eaten by ants on our small pier, which reinforced this awareness. And so I ask myself, how do I want to LIVE? With lightness of being, joy, love, and gratitude. 

I talked to a few friends about what I can do to “fix” the fact that many people here on this island can’t swim, (Marvin included), and that many people get drunk on the beach (Marvin included), which is pretty dangerous if you don’t know how to swim. I was trying to make a plan about how to teach swimming to the kids here in school, and although I will go and chat with the teachers, I was given some good advice: “All I have to do is be who I am.” If I can be a model of peace, compassion, action and right-doing and thought, then really, that is enough. 

Of course, music is always a healer, and so I wrote a song inspired by last week’s event, and will share it with you next week in a video blog; it’s not quite finished yet. Some of you may remember years ago I wrote another song about a girl that I found in BC who had drowned called, “See My Light”, and if you feel like listening to this, you can do so here.

As always, I’m comforted by the fact that you read this words and share your energy as readers and lovers of life, no matter where we are in this world.

Much love and light,

Sarah 

Question for You: I am wondering if any of you have experienced any similar sort of traumatic events and are open to sharing how healing became present for you. Gracias.

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