MAGIC VALLEY — The day started as a typical day for Rachelle Ruffing and her family; They had planned a trip to Twin Falls after their family dog had passed away. They decided to spend the day paddleboarding the Snake River before their dinner reservations. They headed to Pillar Falls and spent some time there before heading back, but things took a turn when they noticed an empty kayak right behind them.
"And I just made an assumption or conclusion that somebody was supposed to be in that kayak, and then I just waited, and I started paddling as fast as I could in my paddleboard to get over to the kayak," Ruffing said.
The kayak belonged to Brendon Lease, who was on a road trip with some friends. They made a stop in Twin Falls where Lease decided to go kayaking, but the currents in Pillar Falls cause his kayak to flip over.
A couple of minutes after noticing the empty kayak, Ruffing says they spotted Lease's body, by that time his lungs had filled with water and Ruffing says his body was already blue.
After locating Lease, Ruffing's daughter's boyfriend immediately jumped into the water to retrieve the body.
"I remember distinctly I had a bird's eye view of Alex pulling Brendon out of the water. I remember my eyes were just big, and I was just in shock like how did he pull him out?" Ruffing said.
Next to them was a pontoon boat filled with about five to six people, with the help of others, they put Lease's body on to the boat where Ruffing starts CPR.
"The driver of the pontoon boat says, 'who knows CPR?' and I remember I looked left to right and I scanned my whole visual field, and I put my hand up, and that happened in slow motion, and I said 'I do,' and he said 'get up here'" Ruffing said.
Ruffing started CPR on Lease's body, while her 13-year-old daughter called 911. After a couple of minutes, another person on the boat stepped in to help with the CPR. Ruffling was having trouble with the chest compressions since she is 5-foot-1-inches, and Lease is 6-foot-4-inches.
After a couple of chest compressions, Lease started coughing up water and taking breaths on his own. Not too long after that, first responders showed up on the scene and rushed him over to St. Luke's hospital.
"What people that haven't done CPR don't realize is that there is also a lot of trauma, and there are scary parts to it," Ruffing said.
Ruffing says she spent the night worrying about Lease and having flashbacks of the incident. She says her 13-year-old daughter also spent the night throwing up because of the event.
Ruffing exchanged contact information with Lease's friends, and that night they messaged her, saying he was walking and talking. They offered to take her to lunch the following day. She met them at the hospital, where she was finally able to meet Lease face to face for the first time.
"And then his buddy said, that's the one, and then he just embraced me, and there were a lot of tears. I don't think there was a dry eye; you just feel connected to him," Ruffing said.
When the incident occurred, Ruffing says one memory that kept haunting her was Lease's lifeless limbs and blue fingers—while out at lunch with Lease and his friends, Ruffing kept touching Lease's arms and hands to get rid of those memories.
"He probably thinks I'm a weirdo because I kept touching his hands and his arms, and I kept wanting to look at his fingers because I wanted to replace that really scary memory," Ruffing said.
That was also not the first time Ruffing has done CPR on someone; back in 1994, she used CPR to help save her grandfather from dying after his heart had stopped.
"It has caused me to do a lot of soul searching, and I think anytime you go through something life-changing like that, it has caused me to really evaluate my choices," Ruffing said.
Throughout all of this, she says she wants people to know the importance of knowing CPR.