In the summer of 2018, Ainsworth resident Marsha Gillies was on the Kootenay Lake beach with her two young grandchildren, Griffin and Emma.
Emma donned her personal flotation device to join Marsha in the water, drifting and floating on their donut-shaped tube, while Griffin played happily on the beach. Everyone was enjoying the water and sunshine.
However, Marsha soon realized that they had drifted too far from shore and, despite wearing PFDs, large waves made it difficult for them to return.
Thankfully Mikenna Hansen, 21, neighbour and sitter of the grandchildren, was nearby. She immediately swam out to assist, returning shortly after to help Marsha who had begun to feel tired and panicked and was struggling to make her way back.
The next day, Marsha discovered from her doctor that she had suffered a mild heart attack.
“It’s my belief that if Mikenna hadn’t been there that day, we very likely would have drowned,” said Marsha.
When fellow resident Judy Hawes heard about what Mikenna did to help Marsha and her grandchildren, she could not imagine letting her good deed go unacknowledged.
“When I heard the story of what Mikenna did that day,” says Judy, “I was so impressed. Not only impressed that she had the swimming skills to do it, but that she was brave enough to do it. I wanted people – kids who went to school with her or rode the school bus with her, teachers, employers, neighbours and relatives who watched her grow up – to know that we have a hero among us, that heroes can be anywhere and any age.”
Daniel Sander, swimming and water safety representative at Canadian Red Cross, says the organization is honoured to present Hansen its Rescuer Award.
“Mikenna’s story shows just how important it is to practice water safety,” says Sander. “Because of Mikenna’s training and quick action, she became an everyday hero and made a big difference in the lives of Marsha and her grandchildren.”
As for Mikenna, she was just happy to be at the right place at the right time.
“While I appreciate the recognition, it is difficult for me to acknowledge my actions that day as heroic,” she says. “During the rescue, my instincts and adrenaline kicked in and I knew I had to step in.
“I am fortunate to have grown up right beside the water from a young age. I also must thank my parents for the countless swimming lessons they drove me to as a kid! I am just happy that I was there with Marsha, Emma and Griffin that day. The only thing I care about is that two lives were not lost that day.”
To learn valuable injury prevention skills through our Red Cross First Aid and Water Safety training, call the Red Cross Contact Centre at 1-877-356-3226 or visit redcross.ca.