PILILAAU ARMY RECREATION CENTER, Hawaii - An emotional reunion happended, recently, when Gilbert Rodriguez, Hizson Lin-Kee, Russell Purdy and Theo Auwau saw each other for the first time during an appreciation ceremony, after what could have been a tragic event, here.

"I am so thankful for these men," said Rodriguez, a 62-year-old resident of Sea Country in Maile. "They are the reason I am still breathing. They are the reason I have more time on this earth."

Rodriguez was celebrating Father's Day with his family, when he decided to take a moment to walk along the beach. He said he walked in the water up to his waist, turned toward the shore to appreciate the view, splashed water on his face - and that is the last thing he remembers.

Meanwhile, Auwau, an avid surfer, was paddling in from his morning surf when he spotted a man floating facedown on the water, near the shore. Auwau quickly changed course toward the floating man's direction.

Millie, Rodriguez's wife, had also noticed her husband floating in the water and that he hadn't come up for air in quite some time. She alerted PARC lifeguards, Purdy and Lin-Kee, who took swift action to get to Rodriguez.

Purdy was first to arrive on the scene and stabilized Rodriguez's head and neck. Lin-Kee immediately followed and assisted Purdy by carrying Rodriguez's lower half.

At this point, Rodriquez had been underwater for almost four minutes, and the lifeguards could not find a pulse. Purdy called 911 as Lin-Kee immediately began executing the ABCs of emergency medicine: airway, breathing and circulation.

By this time, Auwau, had made his way on to the beach and over to Rodriguez. Realizing the gravity of this situation, he laid hands on Rodriguez and began to pray.

Lin-Kee proceeded with the cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Rodriguez. After one round of CPR, Rodriguez regained consciousness, but was still not lucid. The ambulance arrived shortly after, and Rodriguez was rushed to the hospital where he remained under observation for two days.

In an appreciation ceremony, Rodriguez presented his rescuers with Invicta watches to represent the additional time they gave him here on earth. The ceremony ended with an emotional prayer circle of all those in attendance, to give thanks to strangers who touch the lives of others without expecting anything in return.

"One of the things I love about my job is that I get to interact with people and can help them have a better day at the beach," Purdy said. "I am so grateful that people have shown this kind of appreciation for the job we do."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16