Every free chance they have, siblings Ryan and Ryley White look to get on the water. That's why when 18-year-old Ryley, her brother and their significant others trailered their family jet skis to Greenwood Lake on the New York-New Jersey border, they expected nothing but good times and another enjoyable day on the water.
Despite the gray skies and rough water that afternoon, they decided to steer the jet skis toward a swimming spot they’d heard about. Arriving first, Ryan's girlfriend Heather — with Ryley as her passenger — realized the lake was too choppy. She waved to Ryan and Stephen to turn around.
“When she took the turn, a whitecap slapped the side of the jet ski and swept Ryley off,” Ryan recalled. “I wound up hitting the whitecap, and my jet ski bumped into her head. My girlfriend screamed, ‘She’s bleeding!’ She was slipping through her life vest and starting to drown.”
Even swimming as fast as he could, Ryan estimates it took a full minute to reach his sister as he fought the waves.
“I had to do mouth-to-mouth in the water,” he said. “While I applied pressure to the head wound, Heather took the jet ski to flag down help from a passing boat. I had to loop my hand through Ryley’s vest and kick her over to the boat. We kept applying pressure to the wound, to stop the bleeding, then pulled up to a bar on the side of the lake. The roofers working next door to the bar had heard us screaming from the middle of the lake and had called 911.”
Expecting to see his sister leave in an ambulance, Ryan was surprised to see a helicopter swoop in. The crew airlifted Ryley to Westchester Medical Center, the flagship of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth), where the trauma team was already preparing to treat her.
Continue reading Ryley's story via Advancing Care in the Hudson Valley.