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Kayaker Survives Icy Plunge in Lake Michigan

When Michael’s kayak capsized in the icy waters of Lake Michigan he should have been facing a long recovery after a near-death experience. Instead, he was walking out of the hospital just a few hours later. Read Transcript


NARRATOR: Michael Triem and his 17-year-old son Derek

had been kayaking on Lake Michigan many times before,

but this April afternoon was different.

MICHAEL TRIEM: We had never been out on water

that cold before and just wanted to do this for the experience.

So we're going to go out, have fun, and come back.

And our intention was an hour, at most,

and then come back before it got dark.

NARRATOR: Michael reminded his son to be careful.

He gave me a quick briefing, like don't mess around.

NARRATOR: They paddled out about 3/4 of a mile

to get past the choppy waters closer to shore.

And that day, the swells were probably three to four feet.

But they're rolling, so it just kind of goes up and down

like this.

It's actually very calming once you get out

into the open water.

NARRATOR: But as they turned to head back, Michael's kayak

started taking on water.

Then a large swell hit the kayak,

throwing Michael into the frigid lake.

DEREK TRIEM: Oh my goodness, what am I going to do?

That was the first thought that ran through my mind.

NARRATOR: Michael knew his odds of making it out of this alive

were slim.

MICHAEL TRIEM: My initial reaction, to be honest,

was I'm going to die here.

All of my training, all of my swimming

that I've ever been through-- I recognized

that I was too far out, the water was too cold,

for me to survive the distance back to the beach.

NARRATOR: Yet, he made up his mind to fight for his life.

I literally thought, if God wants me today,

he's going to have to take me.

Because I'm not going to give up.

NARRATOR: Michael swam to Derek's kayak

but couldn't get in without sinking them.

He held onto a handle on the back of the kayak,

as both paddled furiously towards shore.

DEREK TRIEM: I did do a little bit

of praying that he would-- that god would help us--

help me to pull through this and help my dad to pull through it.

NARRATOR: Within 10 minutes, Michael's body

was shutting down.

MICHAEL TRIEM: I had become so weak that my hand slipped out

of the handle, and I went underwater, completely

under water.

NARRATOR: Three times Michael slipped under the water.

They had gotten to about 150 yards

from shore, when several young men walking on the beach

spotted them.

OPERATOR (ON PHONE): 911, what is the exact location

of your emergency?

CALLER (ON PHONE): I'm here on the Indiana Dunes beach,

in front of the national park.

And there's someone out in the water

on a kayak and someone in the water,

and they're yelling for help.

NARRATOR: By now, they were in only four feet of water.

And two ran out to help, while another called 911.

MICHAEL TRIEM: They came into the water.

Two men grabbed me, picked me up, and carried me up

onto the beach.

OPERATOR (ON PHONE): How long has he been in the water?

CALLER (ON PHONE): They think like 20 minutes.

They just got him out.

They're walking him up to the pavilion.

DEREK TRIEM: It was a little scary, a little scary.

He's my dad.

So if I were to lose him, and that I'd feel like it

was my fault.

NARRATOR: Soon, emergency responders

arrived and took him to Porter Regional Hospital.

As doctors treated him for hypothermia,

they knew it could go either way.

DR. WOODS: Well, when Michael came in,

his temperature was around 84 degrees, which is classified

as moderate hypothermia.

At that level, your heart rate tends to slow down.

You're at increased risk for arrhythmia,

so your heart could go into an arrhythmia that

is not compatible with life.

NARRATOR: There was also a high risk

that he would suffer long-term kidney and muscle damage.

But as Michael's body temperature approached normal,

it was clear he was going to be fine.

MICHAEL TRIEM: Once I became stable

and I was starting to get my mental capacity back,

that's when I started being thankful and to God

that I was alive.

NARRATOR: In fact, after only four hours in the hospital,

Michael was free to go home.

MICHAEL TRIEM: The physician walked in

and he-- I'll never forget this-- he

had my medical chart in his hand and literally threw it

on the counter and looked right at me.

And he said, if you don't believe in God,

you need to right now.

And he said, I can't believe I'm going to say this,

but he goes, I have no reason to keep you.

We're going to release you.

NARRATOR: From the young men appearing at the right time

to his quick and full recovery, Michael

says there's only one explanation.

MICHAEL TRIEM: I definitely know that it was

God through this whole process.

To have the ability, just the physical strength

and the mental strength, to make it back to the beach

was beyond my capacity.

And to have everything happen in the sequence that it did

was just a confirmation, for me, of the existence of God.

NARRATOR: Dr. Michael Woods would agree.

That sounds like a miracle to me though.

It's great that he was able to pull through.

There's no long-term sequelae, as we call it,

where you have an injury, and then you

live with a piece of that injury for a long period of time.

So, yeah, that was excellent.

God gave him the strength to pull through, and push,

and just keep holding on.

NARRATOR: He and his family are thankful for God's protection

and grace.

God was there the whole time, and keeping me alive.

And he gave me the strength and the will to fight.

That's where that came from.

That wasn't mine, that was his.

I only endured a short amount of pain and trauma,

which is a miracle in itself.

That's God that's working.

I should have died, and he pulled me out of that.

So it's a story about how God can perform miracles.

I am blessed, because he chose to save me.

And then he pulled me out of the water alive.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

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