It was July 3rd when Yvonne Hildebrandt and her son Michael Hildebrandt, 31, decided to go and relax at Kinsmen Park in Kelowna.
With books in hand, the pair picked a spot by the lake about 20 to 30 feet away from a mature willow tree.
Little did they know that their peaceful afternoon would turn into a terrifying ordeal.
“When it came down and I heard the crack, I was in complete disbelief,” Hildebrandt said.
The sound of the crack they heard came from the willow tree. By the time they looked up, a large section of it came crashing down on top of them.
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“It basically, violently threw me to the ground, hit me from behind on my left arm and clubbed my hand as I landed, and of course all the whoosh of the leaves landed on my head,” Hildebrandt told Global News.
But Michael got the brunt of it. He suffered broken ribs, a dislocated hip and serious injuries to his face.
“I see him over where my towel is still, and his head is against the tree. And he’s moaning and all I could cry out was ‘Michael, Michael, Michael’,” Hildebrandt said. “It was terrifying for me as his mom because the blood was pouring out of his face and gurgling. His eyes were rolling back in his head, and I thought he was dying.”
That’s when Hildebrandt said two beachgoers rushed to his aid.
“It was probably within 30 seconds. And they basically took care of him right away,” she said. “They rolled him to his right to let the blood start to pour out the right side.”
Hildebrandt doesn’t know who the pair was but is grateful for their help.
“One lady identified herself as a nurse and the other was a man, I know he identified himself as a professional medic,” Hildebrandt said.
Michael remains at Kelowna General Hospital more than two weeks after the incident. He has already undergone two facial reconstruction surgeries and has one more to go.
In addition to the help of the good samaritans, Michael’s career in the medical field is also being credited for helping save his life.
“The doctor basically said to Michael that he had saved his own life,” she said. “Michael’s medical knowledge at this time being a respiratory therapist and being a perfusionist helped him save his own life. He was able to spit out the blood and time his inhalation according to when he’d spit out so he didn’t choke himself to death.”
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Hildebrandt said both she and Michael are grateful to be alive.
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She has a photo of her son holding a sign in hospital room reading, “Thank you from the Michael Hildebrandt family”, with a heart on it.
The gratitude is expressed towards all the medical staff at the hospital, the paramedics and those two unknown beachgoers that fateful day.
“I would call them angels of mercy,” Hildebrandt said. “I would love to meet them someday and I know Michael especially would love to meet them someday and say thank you.”
The City of Kelowna cut down the remainder of the tree in question the day after the incident, saying at the time, it believed recent wind storms may have compromised the tree.
The city stated it would assess all of the other trees in the park as well as trees in other lakeside parks.
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