Monday, July 16, 2012

"Dave Story: A Tribute", by Mark Montgomery

The Man Himself, Dave Story, on the occasion of the 2011 Lifeguard Alumni Luncheon.  Photo by & Copyright Nick Steers 2011.  Used here with permission. Thanks Nick !                                              

Head's up!  On Thursday, August 2, 2012, at the annual Medal of Valor Dinner, our very own Dave Story (Section Chief, Ret.), will receive the "Lifetime Achievement" Award.  We asked his lifeguard buddy and longtime friend, Mark Montgomery (LACo OLS, Ret.) to say a few words about his pal, Dave.  So here goes.  Enjoy!


"Dave Story: A Tribute", by Mark Montgomery

I first met Dave Story in 1975, just after completing my rookie class training and looking for someplace to live. One of the headquarters lieutenants gave me Dave's number and said he might have a room in Hermosa beach. I called and we met, and went out to Critters Bar and Pub across the street from his house to play some darts and swill a few beers. Dave was a 5 year seasoned guard by then, and was one of the few that were trying to go permanent and work winters. I was a very impressionable 19 year old, full of piss and vinegar, and could not wait to get onto the lifeguard competition teams and figure out the crafts. Dave at this time was settled into a very low key routine, which included a couple dozen pepsi's a day, and a pack or two of smokes, and a lot of TV, waiting for the phone to ring for a shift. After some badgering he agreed to take me out in a dory and show me how this rowing thing works, and that was the beginning of a lifelong friendship that goes til this day.

Once I got the rowing bug, Dave was a goner, as I was knocking on his basement room door every morning. He soon ditched the cigs and switched to diet pepsi, lost about 20 lbs, and our rowing career took off. First up were the Taplin trials in the south bay, which were super competitive back in the late 70's and early 80's. We rowed some of the doryman's races, but it was all about those trials, as I had a taste of that Taplin Bell, swimming on the winning team in 1976. We went on to make several of the teams, and two of them actually won, so now we are immortalized together on the infamous Taplin Bell forever, with all the greats of lifeguarding history. One year we actually won the trials and earned the anchor leg of the winning relay, probably the highlight of our career together.

Next up came a couple of Catalina races, 3rd overall was our best effort. We had a lot of time to row back then, as Prop 13 had the entire County in a hiring freeze, so both of us were on call throughout the winter months. We both got a job working graveyard at King Harbor in the parking ticket booth so that we had our days free to wait for that beeper to go off. Dave did pretty well as he had good seniority, but I ended up painting lifeguard houses in the south bay to make ends meet. When the freeze finally broke, Dave went permanent at Dockweiler south, and I became his relief.

We would have one more big dory race, and that was the Nationals at San Clemente in the early 80's. It was one of those 4' to 6' days with 3 laps around the pier. We got out good holding a top 4 spot for the first lap, with Dave picking our course through traffic. Over the years I had learned to trust Dave as he had an uncanny sense of where to be, and where others were headed for trouble. More than once we rowed long around 4 or 5 boats with locked oars, pushed up against a turn buoy. So on our way out it looked pretty clear and a straight forward line. Out of our line of sight, though, was a boat way off to the south that had caught an outside wave coming in, broaching at warp speed in our direction. While we were trying to time our pull to get over this set coming in, we got completely blindsided by this broached boat, and its stern caught me right in the neck, lifted me out of the boat and into the water. There I sat under all the action, with this really weird feeling of calm. I did not even feel the urge to breathe, which after a few seconds began to panic me.

I was able to float to the surface eventually, and I could hear the announcer saying that it looks like he is all right. I was not all right, as I had no feeling below the neck. Lucky for me that one of my best friends Kim Bushong was on shore and hit the water as soon as he saw the crash. About the time I popped up he was just yards away, and could see the glazed look in my eyes, and knew I was not ok. Between Dave and Kim, they had me in traction and got me onto shore, where an off duty lifeguard paramedic took over and got me back boarded and ready for transport. Dave went into the back of the ambulance with me, and I have some memory now of telling him that I had no feeling in my legs. Other than that, the ride was a blur to me, but knowing Dave, he kept his cool and kept me from any panic. Long story short, I had a severely pinched C4 nerve, and eventually all feeling came back. This would just be the first time that Dave helped save my life, and in 1984 I left the lifeguard service to pursue a career as a professional triathlete.

In 1993 my pro career was winding down, and I began a path back to lifeguarding. Dave and I had always kept in contact, and kept up on each others lives. He on the track to one day becoming Chief, me traveling around the world on Nike's credit card, racing in just about every exotic location you could think of. Dave helped me get back into the swing of things, and through his coaching and study habits, I was able to turn permanent in 1996. It was good to be back, almost felt as I had never left. Except for the fact that all those guys that used to work for me and I had mentored, were now my bosses! No worries though as it was now 2001 and I was next up on the Captains list, ready to join my class as a supervisor. That years ocean recheck swim was held at Manhattan Beach, and as per my usual competitiveness, I was out in front with Sean Lemm battling for the win. Then with about a couple hundred yards to go, something happened and my breathing got very labored, and I could barley walk up the beach. Another good friend and competitor Tom Barnett would ask me after what had happened. He passed me on the run out, and that just never happened between us.  I was light headed, so just figured I was getting the flu or something. I finished the class, then went onto my 24 hour shift at Santa Monica HQ for the night.

Next morning I rode home, but noticed something about my heart rate on the bike. I would get this fuzzy feeling, and at the same time my heart monitor would drop from 120 beats per minute to 40!   After this happened a half dozen times or so, I knew something was wrong with my heart, and drove myself to the emergency room in Torrance. They could find nothing wrong, so they sent me home. Later that night, things were really feeling bad for me, so I drove back to the hospital. Still nothing on the EKG, so they kicked me out the next morning with a 24 hour halter on. Within 16 hours I knew there was enough on the halter to show them what was going on, so I drove back on that Wednesday to turn it in. For whatever reason, they thought I was some sort of hypochondriac, and did not read the monitor until Friday afternoon.

When I got home at 5pm on Friday, this was my message on my machine. "Mr Montgomery, this is Dr. Smith. I have just read your halter monitor, and it is imperative that you get here immediately. Do not drive yourself here, and call me as soon as you get this message". After clearing the load in my shorts, my first call was to my old friend Dave Story. He was able to get off work and picked me up and got me to the emergency room. Apparently my heart was just stopping, sometimes for over 20 seconds at a time, and there was a good chance that it could just stop for good. After checking in, I felt a lot better as I figured if something bad happened, I was at least where the help was going to come from. Like most ER situations, there was a lot of paperwork and some waiting, so Dave and I meandered to the nurses lounge to watch the Lakers in the playoffs. Nothing else to do, so why not?

About a half hour later a nurse came rushing in all in a panic looking for me. I guess they lost track of us and when she finally read what my situation was, they thought I might have died on the toilet or something. So in comes the nurse looking for this severely sick heart patient, and they go right for Dave. I guess of the two of us just sitting on that couch, Dave was the one that looked like he needed some attention.  I will never let him forget that moment. And there he is trying to tell the nurse, no, no, no, it is not me, it is that fit looking guy over there!  I remember Dave told me then that he was never going to quit eating cheeseburgers. If someone like me that lived a super healthy lifestyle and worked out twice every day could get something like this, then what was the point? Hard for me to argue with him there, and the next day the doc came in on his day off to preform emergency heart surgery on me. My lifeguarding career abruptly came to an end that day, but my friendship with Dave continues on.

So Dave is now two for two in my near death experiences, and I cannot think of a better person to have in those situations. Congratulations Dave on your Lifetime Achievement award, you certainly have been there for me in my lifetime. Now it is time for the both of us to row into that sunset, hopefully without any more crashes...   Monty


*** Many Thanks to Mark for sharing his story and remarks about Dave with all of us !  ***

Our readership is also reminded of our earlier blog post announcing this year's Medal of Valor Recipients, which includes a link to the Intl. Surf Festival website where you can find the invitation to the Medal of Valor Dinner on Thursday, August 2, 2012. Friends and colleagues of Dave's will esp. want to be present on this occasion.


Until next time.....

"County Recurrent" News

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