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Published on June 15, 2015

Staying Safe in the Water

Summer brings carefree days filled with outdoor activities and windblown hair, whether boating on the water, driving through the mountains or riding your bike around the neighborhood. No one can predict that those days can turn into tragedy, and it occurs when least expected.

Holly Hartell, a mother of two and librarian at a Spartanburg elementary school, went with her family on March 15 to Lake Bowen in Spartanburg. The Hartells just purchased two new personal watercrafts and were eager to try them out. Holly’s husband, Jim, took their son, J.P., on one watercraft; Holly took their daughter on the other, and they went in separate directions.

That day, Jim and J.P. experienced a traumatic accident that would change their family forever.

“What happened to us was a huge surprise, as is any traumatic accident, and it is something you are certainly not prepared for. We were not prepared for it,” Holly said.

Because they went separate ways on the personal watercrafts, it was more than two hours before Holly learned of the accident. Her husband, Jim, was dead and her son was at Spartanburg Medical Center’s Level I Trauma Center, where he underwent emergency surgery as physicians tried desperately to save his life.

“There were certainly mistakes we made as parents. In balancing and enjoying the time with your family, there are certain safety procedures you should follow,” she said. “One of the most important things that we didn’t do was stay together. We also did not take a boating class, which is something I regret not doing. Water safety is important, because it is a huge pastime, especially in the warm months.”

While part of the Hartell’s story ended tragically, another part of their story was a miracle.

Holly’s miracle: her son is doing well. J.P. experienced a significant brain injury and has a long road to recovery.

“When I arrived at Spartanburg Regional, I was welcomed with unbelievable support from the staff, nurses and doctors during our entire stay,” Holly said. “We were walked right through it as easily as possible. His miracle is partially a result of the skilled staff at Regional.”

To keep others in the community safe, Holly wants to make sure other families learn how to enjoy themselves while staying safe so they don’t experience a traumatic accident like the one that devastated her family.

To keep your family safe and avoid traumatic injuries this summer, here are some safety tips you should follow:

Water Safety: How can I be safe on the water?

  • Take a safety course to learn the rules of boating and how to safely operate your watercraft.
  • Avoid alcohol. The probability of a boating accident doubles when alcohol is involved.
  • Operate watercraft at a safe speed. Inexperience, recklessness, inattention and speed are the four leading causes of accidents on the water.
  • Watch out for low-water areas and submerged objects.
  • Check all personal flotation devices: Make sure they are in good condition and are the correct sizes for all passengers.

Learn how to protect your family at SpartanburgRegional.com/Trauma.

Spartanburg Medical Center

Part of Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System (SRHS), Spartanburg Medical Center (SMC) is a research and teaching hospital licensed for 540 beds with more than 500 physicians on staff.

SMC offers state-of-the-art diagnosis and treatment for residents in the five-county area in North and South Carolina. SMC’s services include Level I Trauma Care Emergency Services; Level III Neonatal Intensive Care; Gibbs Cancer Center & Research Institute; Heart Center; Hospice; Josey-Bearden Center for Breast Health; Women; and Children. U.S. News & World Report named SMC the best regional hospital in South Carolina for 2014 and the hospital earned high-performing status in nine areas: cardiology and heart surgery; diabetes and endocrinology; gastroenterology and gastrointestinal surgery; geriatrics; nephrology; neurology and neurosurgery; orthopedics; pulmonology; and urology.

About Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System

Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System (SRHS) offers a full spectrum of services through three hospitals: Spartanburg Medical Center, Pelham Medical Center and Spartanburg Hospital for Restorative Care. SRHS provides unparalleled oncological care through the Gibbs Cancer Center & Research Institute. The multidisciplinary Medical Group of the Carolinas has more than 300 physicians across seven counties in two states. SRHS employs nearly 6,000 associates and offers outpatient surgery centers, a vibrant post-acute division, a Level I Trauma Center, and Advicare, a licensed Health Maintenance Organization (HMO). Advicare provides Medicaid services to residents throughout the state of South Carolina. U.S. News and World Report ranked Spartanburg Medical Center the No. 1 regional hospital in South Carolina. The Commission on Cancer gave Gibbs Cancer Center & Research Institute its Outstanding Achievement Award. The American Nurses Association lists SRHS among the nation’s top 7 percent of hospitals for excellence in nursing.

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