NAWILIWILI — Anya Littlefield, a Kaua‘i Interscholastic Federation and Swim Kaua‘i Aquatics standout swimmer, may have won the 1,500 meter swim challenge Saturday, but that achievement is paled by her heroic action of March 31 when she helped save a Colorado man from the surf.
“A number of the SKA kids happened to be in the water and alerted myself and others that an individual was unconscious and needed immediate help,” said Dan Britzmann of SKA. “Anya quickly swam over and began dragging the victim through the heavy shore break, and with the help of another individual, they were able to get him into shallow water where beachgoers were able to get him on the beach.”
A county press release said the 69-year-old Colorado man was listed in critical condition at The Queen’s Medical Center on O‘ahu after a bystander and a lifeguard administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation until the Kaua‘i Fire Department and paramedics arrived.
The victim, identified by the Littlefield family as Ron Woods, was transported to Wilcox Memorial Hospital before being transported by helicopter to Honolulu.
“Anya is a champion swimmer and showed some heroics,” Britzmann said. “Several other swim team kids in the water alerted adults and helped give this man a chance. I am very proud of them.”
But the saga did not end there, as the lifeguard involved in the rescue inquired about an update on the victim’s condition.
Kathleen Littlefield, Anya’s mother, said during the recent Kaua‘i Special Olympics swim meet that Anya has also been concerned and followed the progress of Woods since the incident.
“He can wiggle his toes,” Anya said Saturday at the KLY challenge. “He can also eat mac and cheese. That is so encouraging.”
Anya said on March 31, she was in the water with several SKA swimmers and in the process of escorting them back to shore when an individual told her about a man floating face-down in the break.
“He really needed help,” Anya said, who was prompted to action by the report and the appearance of the individual. “He looked like he was ready to go into shock and didn’t know what to do.”
Following the rescue, Woods was at Queen’s Hospital until April 17 when he was flown to Craigs Hospital in Colorado.
“Ron is completely coherent mentally and suffers no mental loss,” Kathleen said. “This is a small miracle on its own. He has overcome many obstacles in addition to surgery to stabilize his spine as he broke several bones.”
Recovery has been slow but steady, and by the end of April, Kathleen said Woods has regained feeling to his waist, is off the ventilator, and is able to eat applesauce.
By Saturday, Woods’ recovery had progressed even more, as he was able to wiggle his toes and eat macaroni and cheese while waiting to be moved to a rehabilitation program in Colorado.
“This is really a miracle,” Anya said.
“When we got to him, he wasn’t breathing, and when your brain is starved of oxygen for so long, your chances of full recovery goes down. But now, he can wiggle his toes and that is a very encouraging sign for his recovery.”
• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or email@example.com.