NEW YORK(CBSNewYork) — A Westchester family’s scuba diving excursion took a terrifying turn when a mother of three was knocked unconscious while underwater. When all hope seemed lost it was her husband who came to her rescue and gave her a second chance.
“He saved my life, and I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him and not giving up,” Dr. Hilary Greenberg told CBS 2’s Katie McGee as tears rolled down her face.
Bill and Hillary are both experienced divers, they were on a trip with their three sons in Costa Rica last April when their dive took a dangerous turn.
“I felt a very, very, very violent push or shove and in my mind I remember thinking, ‘oh my god, oh my god, what is that?’ a very powerful shove, and that’s the last thing I remember,” Hilary said.
It is believed that the surge pushed Hilary onto a reef and knocked her unconscious, by the time Bill came to her rescue, she had been underwater for at least five minutes.
“I inflated her ‘bc’ which is her buoyancy compensation device, which helps keep her afloat. I just started breathing into her mouth, so I was sort of trying to start some sort of CPR out in the water, which wasn’t easy,” Bill said.
The dive boat arrived several minutes later, but it took another twenty minutes for all of the divers to get on board and for the boat to depart.
“We kept going, other people were doing compressions. I kept checking for pulses, and couldn’t detect anything. She was blue, her pupils were fixed, dilated,” Bill recalled.
At that point it had been almost thirty minutes, an EMS boat had finally arrived but the equipment on board wasn’t working.
Bill, also a doctor, know that saving his life would be a long shot, but he refused to give up. He kept going for nearly forty-five minutes, until they finally made it back to shore.
“I’m starting to think, this is not looking good. Do I keep going? Is she going to be brain-damaged? Is she going to be a vegetable if I do get her back? Those are the thoughts that are going through my head, and I just decided, I just kept going,” Bill said.
Amazingly, Hillary survived. She was airlifted to the United States and hospitalized for two weeks, she spent another five weeks at the Burke Rehabilitation Center in Westchester.
“I couldn’t use silverware, uh, I didn’t know how to pick up a spoon to eat oatmeal in the morning. I had trouble, even day-to-day life getting dressed,” Hilary said.
Hilary’s injuries didn’t affect all of her brain.
“So there’s a part of my brain, I don’t know if it’s the frontal lobe, was able to retain the foreign language ability,” she said,”when I was still an inpatient, they heard me speaking French in the hallway to somebody, cause I spoke French through college.”
Dr. Greenberg should be back to one-hundred-percent in the next few months, and she thanks her husband and CPR for saving her life. A recent study found that prolonged CPR can increase a patient’s chance of survival by twelve-percent.
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