For a few more weeks Mike Underhill of Imperial Beach will be 65. He almost didn’t make it to 66.
“I’m alive and I didn’t want to die and leave my wife,” he said.
Last Saturday Underhill had a heart attack and went into cardiac arrest while out body boarding with his neighbors Joe Bradley and Perry Payne. The quick action of his neighbors as well as lifeguards, firefighters and paramedics got his heart to beat again and saved his life.
Underhill said he felt a sharp pain across his chest for 15-20 seconds before he lost consciousness. The next thing he remembers is being in the Sharp Mercy Hospital emergency room.
“They brought a husband back to his wife, a grandfather back to his grandchildren, a father back to his children. I can’t say anything but great things about all of them,” he said. “I don’t know if you get that in all communities. I can’t say that you do or you don’t, but in Imperial Beach you do.”
On Wednesday during an Imperial Beach City Council meeting about a dozen people who helped save Underhill’s life received proclamations from Imperial Beach Mayor Jim Janney and Port of San Diego Commissioner Dan Malcolm.
- Citizens Perry Payne, Joe Bradley and Galio Valdez
- Imperial Beach Lifeguards Art Ayala, Brittany Hanson and Hans Koehler
- Imperial Beach Fire Department Firefighter/Paramedics Jason Bell, Patrick Spears and Kory Foofer
- American Medical Response Paramedics Carlos Valdez and John McCormick
“I may be biased guys but I think Imperial Beach has the best lifeguard service in the state and maybe in the country,” Malcolm said. “To see the best traditions of lifeguards and really heroics play out on our beach and change the community, change this man’s life, his family, the course of a lot of people’s lives changed by your actions.”
After Underhill was pulled to shore by his neighbors just south of the pier, his wet suit was cut open and a defibrillator was used to shock his heart back to life, said Fire Chief Tom Clark.
“I brought this up to the surf hut the owner most everybody in Imperial Beach knows him as Jesus, everybody’s bro,” said Lifeguard Captain Robert Stabenow. “And he wishes you a fast recovery, and I told him about your wet suit being cut off to put the defrib pads on and he donated a free full sized wetsuit here for you.”
Underhill, who typically surfs with a long or body board, said he plans to be back in the water soon, but that this will be a very special holiday season.
“I’m thankful, just thankful as can be for everything I have. And it’s a special holiday for me, everyday. Cause those guys went out of their way to make sure that I made it. I don’t know if that would happen at any other time in any other place,” he said.