For most people, a trip to Maui is a dream vacation.
But for one Canadian visitor, that dream became a nightmare.
In 2016, Jim Ryan’s life was forever changed in an instant when he was thrown onto the sand and rocks by a powerful shore break at “Big Beach” in Makena.
Now confined to a wheelchair, he recently returned to the beach in hopes of finding some of those who saved him.
As it turns out, he connected with three of his five rescuers: John Kaneshima, Terrence Shimada, and Kaipo Chong.
“Thank you so much. You saved my life,” said Ryan.
They, along with Josh Edlao and Jay Panlasigui, were on duty the day Ryan ventured into the large surf.
“I remember you dragged me over the rocks, and I woke up twice, and I couldn’t breathe,” said Ryan. “But then, I can’t remember. I can’t believe you did it.”
“You definitely came back,” said Kaneshima. “When we first got to you, not to sound harsh, but you were dead.”
“I remember staying up above your head and watching your eyes. When we first arrived, the color in your face, your eyes,” said Shimada.
“I never thought I was going to die,” said Ryan. “I always figured that it was all going to work out, and then I died, but then I’m back.”
Ryan, who was a pilot with Canada-based WestJet Airlines, traveled to Maui often. He always loved the sand and the water.
“This was the last place I walked, literally. It’s bizarre how my life changed right here, forever,” he said. “I had to come back to see if I knew anybody or anybody remembered me. I just wanted to say thank you. You did it.”
Ryan was brought back to life by a method know as extreme CPR, a relatively new technique the lifeguards used for the very first time.
“It was a team effort. It’s high-performance CPR, it’s very strenuous, so it takes a lot of manpower,” said Kaneshima.
“I want to thank you. I had to come back and see you. It’s an honor to meet you. You’re a hero. You’re my hero,” Ryan said. “It’s a curse, because I’m living in a body like this, but it’s a blessing to realize how good people truly are from the moment it happened to today.
“I don’t know what to say except thank you for making it work, for bringing me back, for doing what you guys do. I know I’m not the only one, but it worked, and I’m here,” he added. “I just wanted to say thanks, let you know a lot of us appreciate everything you do in every sense of the word.”