Charlie Dickman and his family have vacationed in Puerto Rico several times within the past decade, but none may have been as memorable as their last in December.
Dickman, a Thornton, Iowa man, was on the beach with his wife, Janna, and their three children when he saw a man’s body floating in the water.
“I instantly thought it was a shark attack,” he said.
Dickman told his wife to stay with their children on the beach, and he ran to the man in the water without giving it much thought.
The man’s mouth and eyes were wide open and he wasn’t breathing, so Dickman, 38, carried him to the beach, where he performed CPR on him. Having never done CPR before, he relied on what he’d seen on TV and his wife, who works at MercyOne.
After 20 minutes, the man’s heart fluttered and he started breathing.
“You only feel that (adrenaline rush) a couple times in your life,” Dickman said. “That emotion is crazy.”
The man, Richard Snider, of Fairfax, Virginia, was transported by an ambulance to a nearby emergency room.
Snider, 66, and his girlfriend, Barbara Gordon, were in Puerto Rico for a weeklong trip, and they were the Dickmans’ neighbors at the resort. The incident happened on Dec. 21, their seventh day on the Caribbean island.
Snider remembers body surfing two or three times, waving to Gordon who was reading on the beach and returning to the water.
“Unfortunately, I don’t remember anything past waving to Barbara until waking up (in the emergency room),” he said in a phone interview.
Snider, who sustained a spinal cord injury, was hospitalized in San Juan for two weeks before he was medically transported by air to Miami, where he was treated for three months.
Gordon said after the incident, she obtained Dickman’s contact information from the resort staff so she could reach out to him and update him on Snider’s progress.
In late February, Dickman and his wife traveled to Miami to visit Snider in the hospital. They’d been informed that Snider was experiencing complications in the intensive care unit, and Snider’s family wanted the two men to meet.
“He turned the corner when we were down there,” Dickman said. “It was great news.”
Dickman said their meeting was “pretty special” and “emotional,” especially since Snider’s condition had significantly improved since he’d seen him in Puerto Rico. The two men remain in contact.
Snider was discharged from the hospital on April 11 and has been doing physical therapy and occupational therapy.
Gordon said the doctors in Miami expect Snider, who is in a wheelchair, to fully recover within a year.
“He saved my life,” Snider said about Dickman. “It makes me cry every time I think about it to be honest. He’s a pretty amazing guy.”