Friday, 19 April 2013

Harmonica and a Cause

A few years back I decided I wanted to learn how to play the harmonica.  I did some looking about online and came upon JP Allen's website and DVDs on how to learn and followed them for a while, making definite progress before I put down the harmonica again and haven't played now for over 2 years. Almost every day I say to myself that it's something I'd like to get back t doing.

But this post is about something else.

I recently got an email from JP (I'm still in the mailing list cause I think he's a great guy and teacher) about an accident that he recently had while on a harmonica retreat with his buddies. It seems that on a nature hike two of his friends, including Hal Walker, his first harmonica teacher, were swept out to sea when a large wave hit the cliff they were standing on. It was unexpected and unpredictable.

Sadly, one of their friends, Ash Phua Chuan Chin couldn't fight he current and drowned. Hal on the other hand was miraculously saved and is currently recovering in hospital.  

The organisers of the retreat have set up a fund on IndieGogo to raise money to ofset Hal's medical bills as he cannot play his music currently which was his main income befre the accident.  If you'd like to help out you can visit the page here:

Hal Walker

I'm planning on making a contrubution mysef and digging the harmonica out of the drawer in my office today. Life is too short to continue putting it off.

I've copied and pasted the story of the accident here for you to read as well:

Hello Harmonica retreat friends,
I wrote this the night after the accident to send to some friends.  I thought I'd share it with you to fill in Greg's beautiful account.  My recovery has been slow.  My body was hit quite hard and some lasting symptoms are concerning me... but it's quite a story isn't it?
I'm sorry that the week ended in tragedy.  May Phua Chuan Chin rest in peace and may his family find peace.  Love to you all, Hal
I'm writing you on my 47th birthday to let you know how grateful I am to be alive and to have you in my life

As you know, I have been in Hawaii for the last week.  Yesterday, I had a near-drowning experience and today, it is literally a miracle that I'm alive.  Tonight, it's been very difficult to sleep, so at this point it's a fairly terrifying miracle; but it is a real miracle... I'm looking forward to feeling the reborn, thank you God feeling of having this miracle in the past.

My good friend JP Allen and I have been leading a Hawaiian Harmonica retreat this week.  Despite some lingering TMJ/jaw issues, it's been quite wonderful.

Yesterday JP, myself and 2 retreat participants were walking along the huge mountains of Lava at one place along the ocean.  We hiked a hidden path behind Ben Stiller's mansion to get to this other worldly place of black lava.   I was actually feeling quite good because there has been significant improvement in my jaw pain of 6 weeks in the last couple days.

At one point, the four of us stopped on this wide bridge of lava that was overlooking a 15 foot round pool of water.  The waves would travel down a wide canal, go under the bridge and then would spout up in this pool like a dragon.  It was very beautiful to look at.

None of us sensed that we were in any danger.  We were on dry lava.  We looked back and saw some very large  waves coming and we stood awaiting the show that we would be viewing.

As we stood there, waiting to see the wave... very suddenly and unexpectedly, a huge wall of wave struck two of us from behind and within a split second I was submerged in water, being sucked under the bridge and out into the ocean.  I was underwater for an extended time, when I came up for air, I was quickly struck again.  At some point my head hit a rock and I was thinking, "Oh yeah.. this is what happens when you're being pummled by waves and the current."  I gasped for air a couple more times as I could feel myself being pulled out into the ocean.

Finally there was a calming of the big waves and I could see JP. He was calling me to take off my shoes and pants and start swimming toward him. I was shouting in terror, but trying to follow his directions to stay calm.  It seemed like a long 20 yards that I had to swim to JP and the current was such that I had a feeling it wasn't making a diffference.

I was mainly thinking that I was going to die and that Hallie was going to have to face this.  I was thinking about how exhausted I felt and wondered how long it would be before I would have to give up.

then a wave pushed me in the direction of JP and I found myself hanging on to the side of a lava wall. JP tried to hand me a long stick and I grabbed it, but soon we lost our connection and I went under again.  Finally, we connected again with the stick and JP dragged me to an easier entry spot to land. Miraculously, a wave pushed me at the right moment and I found myself laying on lava with JP hovering over me... "Keep moving! there are more waves coming! you gotta move about 10 more feet. I was plastered to the rocks with lungs filled of salt water and totally spent.  I was dead weight.  I felt like I didn't have an ounce of energy left, but fortunately, I was able to move about 10 feet away from the edge and Greg had called 911.

It seemed like, Fairly quickly, the rescue people had arrived.  When they showed up, I learned that the other guy, Ash, had not made it.  JP had seen him floating face down out into the ocean.  Our sense is that Ash was struck in the head and made unconscious on the fall into  the water hole.  Ash was a wonderful and lively 62 year old man from Singapore.  He was a smoking cessation counselor and had dreams of using the harmonica to inspire people to quit smoking.  He gave us all lessons in the health benefits of using a rebounder/ small trampoline to gain good health.

I laid there in my underwear unable to move but sensing that I had survived. they were sending me a helicopter to life flight me to the ambulance.  I soon became very cold and was shivering and panting for air. At one point another huge wave came and these rescue guys were all holding me down, the wave hit us and I screamed in terror as it moved us all a couple feet.

Eventually, they hooked me into a metal crate and the helicopter flew me up over the cliffs to a parking lot.  I could see out of the corner of my eye a spectacular view as I was being transported, but that was not my concern.

Pretty soon the ambulance guys confirmed that all my vitals looked good.  I was panting for air and they were encouraging me to take deeper breaths to clear out the salt water and to avoid pneumonia.

In the hospital, I was shivering and in shock. they took x-rays to see the water in my lungs, after several hours they felt like it was ok for me to be released.  JP and Greg and JP's partner, Caru arrived after a long interview with detectives.

I was glad to see them and I burst into tears when they arrived.  We have been talking non-stop about the miracle that I had made it.

I was quite beat up by the rocks... my whole body is covered in minor cuts and abrasions.   I lost my glasses and my iphone in the water, but I am in one piece.   When we got back to JP's, we could see that the helicopter's were still looking for Ash.

I am left with some very frightening images that keep playing over and over in my head.  i'm hoping these will subside before too long.   We got home and JP spent a couple hours cleaning my wounds with hydrogen peroxide, tea tree oil and Noni fruit.

So that's the story...  I looked death in the face and it was terrifying.

I'm heading home soon.  I'll look for you when I get there.

Love, Hal

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