A swimmer saved off the Waterford coast earlier this year has urged people to support the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) charity in its Christmas appeal.
The RNLI is trying to raise cash after being forced to cancel fundraising events because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Michael Power (55) from Tramore was swimming at the Guillamene swimming cove on the western side of Tramore Bay last January when he got caught in a strong rip current.
“I’m a regular swimmer but I became aware that I was not moving even after increasing my strokes. I had got caught in a rip current and although I tried to get to safety. I began to lose energy . . . I later discovered I had developed hypothermia and slipped into a coma,” he said.
Fortunately for Mr Power, there were several people in the area and they raised the alarm. Tramore RNLI Inshore Lifeboat, crewed by brothers David and Fergal McGrath and Alec Fitzmaurice, raced to the scene and rescued Mr Power.
The crew found Mr Power face down in the water and unresponsive. But they got him aboard their inshore boat and started cardiopulmonary resuscitation on him as they returned to port, from where he was transferred to University Hospital Waterford in Ardkeen.
His family were at his bedside as doctors feared the worst, but after spending a day in a coma he regained consciousness the following day and has made a full recovery.
"I am so grateful to my rescuers . . . I am known as the miracle man around here now. The doctors told me that I should not have survived and that the lifeboat crew undoubtedly saved my life. So, this is my way of saying, 'thank you' by urging people to donate to the RNLI this Christmas.
Mr Power returned recently to Tramore RNLI Lifeboat Station where he met his rescuers and they filled him in on details of the rescue before presenting him with a personal memento of the day.
“When I visited the lifeboat station they presented me with my swimming cap and goggles that they had kept, unsure if I would survive but unwilling to dispose of them. It was an extremely emotional moment and I have plans to frame them as a reminder of that day that I can’t even remember.
“I know there are so many families out there who have reason to be grateful to the RNLI and mine certainly have. The RNLI are tremendous people and I would urge everyone to support them in whatever way they can with donations in the run up to Christmas.”
RNLI Ireland spokeswoman Niamh Stephenson said they have launched their Christmas appeal this year as so many traditional community fundraising events such as raft races, open days and sea swims have had to be cancelled due to pandemic restrictions.
“This year the charity has spent funds on PPE [personal protection equipment], including face masks, gloves and thousands of litres of hand sanitiser. This is money the charity hadn’t budgeted for but needed to be spent to keep our lifesavers and the public protected during the coronavirus crisis,” she said.
Anyone wishing to make a donation to the RNLI's Christmas Appeal can do so by visiting: RNLI.org/Xmas