Oman’s beauty spots are wonderful but can be lethal if one is unlucky. One Canadian woman escaped death at Wadi Shab thanks to a good Samaritan, with whom she was later reunited after an extensive internet search. Team Y brings you her incredible story.
Death doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t strike when you’re ready. It won’t care if you’re on vacation in another country or if you’re having the time of your life with your mates. It can strike anyone at any time – and if anything’s certain, we’re all destined to pass on one day.
But, this isn’t a story of sorrow. It’s the story of how a 33-year-old Canadian tourist, Suha A., pulled off the greatest escape of her life, while visiting Oman – all thanks to her guardian angel – literally (!)
An angel that Suha, and tens of thousands of people on the Internet, would help her to find and thank.
In February 2017, Suha, who works as a bio-engineer in Canada, and her husband were on holiday in Oman, and were visiting Wadi Shab – the “Jewel of Oman”.
They took a trip down to the rock-strewn underground caves to catch a glimpse of the majestic and unspoilt waterfalls.
The turquoise waters of Wadi Shab are teeming with adventure opportunities and are worth hours of amusement.
But as any lover of the outdoors will tell you, there are dangers everywhere.
All she remembers from her trip was how splendid the waterfalls seemed and how the rains from the night before had created a rough terrain for adventurists.
She lost her footing and came face-to-face with what she describes as her “last moments”.
Her next memory, as she tells Y in an interview, is of her screaming for help and gasping for breath.
“I can’t. I can’t,” she screamed out to her husband as she began fighting bubbles at the foot of the waterfall.
‘Bubbles’ is a phenomenon triggered when white water foams – and it is known to reduce buoyancy. This can, inevitably, lead to drowning. Due to this, even the most experienced swimmers are warned against venturing into waterfalls.
World-renowned swimmer (and paramedic) Lynne Roper teaches aspiring divers and paddlers of the various contingencies when taking a dip in the sea or white waters. She writes in her blog: “Bubbles can make you lose your buoyancy, but the added effects of gravity can further pull you to the bottom, leading you to drown.
“If you’re not experienced, that’s the kind of thing that can make you panic – and panicking can get you into trouble.
“It is instinctive to try to swim against the current, back up thorough the bubbles, but you have to exit that stream of air filled fluid through the water around you and then surface,” she adds.
Of course, despite her swimming experience and possibly due to shock, Suha struggled to cope with the bubbles in the water.
Suha then tells: “I saw a rope next to the waterfall. In panic, I thought I would swim to the rope and pushed my body against the cave wall to propel me in that direction.
“But, boy, I was wrong. Swimming against this [vortex] took its toll on me. And quickly, my attempt to swim became an attempt to simply stay afloat.
“I started sinking. I was dying,” she says.
“People always talk about how they think of their loved ones moments before they die. But, my reality was nothing like that. In that moment, I just wanted fresh air. I’m a swimmer, but the sudden claustrophobia compounded by the strong current overcame me.
“I began to drown. Every time I managed to bring my mouth above the water, I would gasp for air rather than scream for help.
“I was counting every second, though I eventually went deeper into the water. My last few attempts to lift my body above water for air were filled with water instead. That is, until I could leap no more.”
Just minutes after she began her struggle, she surrendered – leaving it to the forces of the world to save her from her distress. She says: “I gave up. I just wanted to close my eyes and sleep.
“My husband was no longer close to me and to be honest I do not know what he could have done – but he began to panic. He tried to reach me but couldn’t overcome the currents. Moreover, it was also loud inside the cave from the waterfalls – so no one could hear me.”
But, rushing to the spot from the shadows of the cave was Patrizia. Without thinking twice, she jumped into the water to save Suha and wrapped her hands around her neck.
“I think she told me to lay on my back and take a deep breath as she held me close to her. I also closed my eyes out of exhaustion. And with my eyes closed and my face close to hers, I only heard her breath.
“There are many things I do not remember about this encounter but her breaths are so vivid. I felt calmness with each breath of hers. She seamlessly swam through the rough waters and out of the tiny cave entrance, all while carrying me along.”
Suha was provided basic medical attention on land – and she lives today to talk about her ordeal.
But she had one last thing to do: meet the woman who stood between her and death, and give her a hug and a bottle of her favourite maple syrup.
Her search, undoubtedly, was a difficult one.
“All I knew was that her name was Patrizia and that she was from Switzerland,” she says.
And a few days into it, she began losing hope – but that’s when the Internet came together to help her.
Armed with keyboard warriors and international media, she put a call out for the woman.
She even travelled continents in a bid to meet her. Knowing full well that her call would be heard in Europe, she headed to Germany and wrote to media houses asking for help.
After weeks of a futile search, however, she decided to give up and leave. But, that’s when things took a turn for the better. Swiss media houses carried her story and even forums such as Reddit were awash with hashtags asking users to help Suha find Patrizia.
Soon, a #findpatrizia campaign was launched – and after 12 days of search, Patrizia was found, on August 24.
“Brown complexion, short hair, thin face, and blue eyes: I knew it was her the moment I saw her,” Suha says.
Photos of them exchanging hugs went viral across all forms of media – and for once, the internet had come to cheer with the smiles of two individuals.
But it didn’t end there. As it turned out, the two women share the same birth date, month, and year!
“We hit it off immediately,” says Suha. “It was almost like we’d known each other for years. She even gave us a tour of Zurich and introduced me to Swiss food, which we shared.
“I felt a strong connection between us even though fate had only brought us together for minutes, once before.”
While Suha did manage to give Patrizia her maple syrup, she now shares a strong bond with her – and that no number of gifts can ever match up to what she gave her: the gift of life.
“It’s because of Patrizia that my children can grow up with a mother and father. If I could gift her weight in gold, I would. But, I think both of us now share a bond that we’ve waited 33 years to share. And for that very reason, I think that this was destiny.”
“My heart is at peace.”