I couldn’t feel my hands anymore and using them was impossible. The shivering was uncontrollable and violent. “That’s a good sign,” I thought.
I remembered from my studies of hypothermia that shivering stops before you lose consciousness. “If I’m still shivering then I’ll live for a while longer,” I reasoned. But mostly I was wondering how I got myself into that mess.
No, I hadn’t fallen overboard or stumbled off the docks. I had jumped into a half-frozen Lake Eerie on purpose. Forty people saw me do it and they were all just standing there, watching me – with cameras rolling – slowly freeze to death.
The National Water Safety Congress, who got eight of us to volunteer for this crazy – federally funded – experiment in suffering, recruited in August by design. It was easy to agree to jump into freezing cold water when it’s sunny and warm out. Their public service DVD – Cold Water Boot Camp, USA – was designed to dispel two dangerous myths about cold water: one is that a person’s swimming ability makes any real difference in their need for a life jacket, and the other is that hypothermia kills quickly. Neither is true.