A second chance at life, 10 years later

Carly Boohm talks at her south Chehalis home Friday about the past 10 years of her life. She reflected on the 10-year anniversary of a canoeing accident that put her underwater in the Wenatchee River for 45 minutes.
Carly Boohm talks at her south Chehalis home Friday about the past 10 years of her life. She reflected on the 10-year anniversary of a canoeing accident that put her underwater in the Wenatchee River for 45 minutes. DAN SCHREIBER/THE CHRONICLE (CENTRALIA)

April 15, 2000, is a day that Carly Boohm cannot remember, no matter how hard she tries.

Boohm, then a Tenino High School junior, was preparing for a Wenatchee River relay race that was to take place the next day.

A canoe she was riding in capsized and struck a bridge piling, plunging her under 3 feet of water.

The river ran faster and higher that day because of melted snowpack – so hard, in fact, that the speed and force of the water bent the canoe in half. Rescuers’ repeated attempts to reach Boohm failed, until one desperate attempt 45 minutes after she went underwater.

Doctors brought her back to life at a hospital that evening but gave her little to no chance for survival.

“I still remember doctors telling us Carly might not make it, and even if she did, she would be a vegetable,” said Carly’s mother, Barbara Boohm. “They had the crash cart next to her bed all night, and only four days later she waved to us.”

Carly had survived not just 45 minutes underwater, but also repeated heart failure. After days in intensive care and weeks of relearning basic functions and redeveloping motor skills, she came home to Tenino, where she would graduate high school with honors.

“Saving Carly was a badge of honor for our community,” Dr. David Daniel, who spent 18 hours trying to keep her alive the first night, told The Wenatchee World in 2006. “It didn’t matter to us that it had never been done before. We just pulled together and did it. … We’ve never had anybody that far on the other side of the line that we’ve brought back to life.”

It has been 10 years since the day that changed Carly Boohm’s life forever. On Friday, she sat down with The Chronicle to speak about and reflect on her life today, her struggles and her faith.

The Chronicle: You’re 26 now, and your family now lives in Chehalis. It looks like life has changed quite a bit for you — tell us what you’re up to these days.

Carly Boohm: I’ve enrolled in Centralia College and I’m taking six credits right now. I really want to be an engineer. ... I used to want to be a podiatrist, but I didn’t pass biology so my focus had to change. I don’t have a job right now, even though I’ve had a few before. I guess that’s in the back of my mind.

TC: Do you still struggle with a lot of problems from the injuries you’ve suffered?

Carly: Memory loss has been the biggest hit so far. Sometimes I struggle with short-term memory. I can’t run at all, and there’s a lot of stuff I can’t do. But there is a lot I still can do, and I’m thankful for that.

TC: Even though 10 years have passed, it sounds like you struggle emotionally at times with the effects of the accident. How do those emotions come into play in your daily life?

Carly: Sometimes I get depressed. I mean, I used to be a 4.0 student in high school, and I thought school was fun. I was involved in sports; I could run and do so many more things than I can now. My medication helps with the symptoms sometimes, but I rely on my faith in God to get me through a lot of it.

TC: How big of a role would you say that faith plays in your recovery?

Carly: Very big. I pray a lot and I read the Bible. I stay active in my church and I’m really involved in life group; that’s a small group that gets together every so often. Church has been a tremendous support to me.

TC: Speaking of small groups, how is your social life these days? Do you have friends who help you and give you moral support?

Carly: I really don’t have much of a social life. Honestly, I’m kinda awkward around people my age. I think it’s part of the recovery; I mean, people have always wanted to hear my story, but I don’t really get to hear others’ stories. The people at my church are great, though.

TC: Do you keep in contact with people who rescued you and helped in your initial recovery?

Carly: Sometimes. I am friends with a lot of them on Facebook. It wasn’t just the doctors, but there were people behind the scenes – people in my church, people around the country, and they tell me there were even people who were standing on the bridge that day who prayed for me too.

TC: When you see a lot of the articles, photos and videos your family has kept from the accident and your rehabilitation, what do you think?

Carly: The photos are the only link I have to understand what happened that day. Sometimes I look at the paper that came out, see the photo and think, ‘Was that me?’ After the accident, I was so blissfully unaware of what happened and how bad off I really was, but as time passed and I began to heal, I became more self-aware.

TC: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Carly: I’d like to have some sort of job in the engineering field. I’d love to work with math and numbers, and also work with other people. I also think as time goes on, I’ll continue to be able to do more with my life and maybe help some other people, too.