Porter Regional Hospital Survivor Story: ‘It’s a Miracle I’m Alive’

Porter Regional Hospital Survivor Story: ‘It’s a Miracle I’m Alive’

Michael Triem survives severe hypothermia after kayak accident

It was the Saturday before Easter 2015 when Michael Triem, 44, and son Derrik, 17, decided to go for a quick adventure in their kayaks. No strangers to kayaking, they headed to the shores of Lake Michigan, with life jackets. They were about ¾-mile out when they turned to head back and the ordinary day turned extraordinary. Michael Triem’s kayak malfunctioned, filled with water, and sank. Triem knew he was in trouble. “I thought to myself ‘There’s no way you can survive this,’” he recalls.

Yet, Triem had to try. He had always been a strong swimmer and also had military background. But the water temperature was just 36 degrees. “I believe there were a series of miracles that kept me alive that day,” he shares. First, he was able to keep his head above water, preventing himself from gasping and taking in water, a situation that claims one in five people who die within two minutes of being submerged in frigid water.

“I told Derrik – and myself – that it was going to be okay. I told him to paddle as hard as he could.” Michael was able to hold on to Derrik’s kayak with one hand and swim with the other, fighting against exhaustion and severe cold, which was numbing his limbs. "Three separate times I was so weak that I actually let go and went completely under the water. All three times I reached up blindly and found that handle,” he says, counting this as another miracle.

Next, a group of young men were on the beach and entered the water when Triem was about 50 yards from the shore, just as he was unable to go any further. They happened to be former boy scouts who immediately put their training to work to warm Triem against the warm bricks of the nearby pavilion as they waited for emergency help. When the ambulance arrived, paramedics found Triem’s body to be just 84 degrees – more than 14 degrees below normal.

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