It started as a regular workday for Jillian Dinowitz and Ryan Magill, her childhood friend and fellow sailing instructor.
That August day, the two were on separate power boats teaching their last morning class of the season at the Moriches Yacht Club, when Jillian heard Ryan, 17, screaming.
Being far away, she assumed he had fallen and perhaps broken his arm, but as the Shoreham-Wading River High School senior got closer, she realized that wasn’t the situation.
Using her training, she pulled Ryan out of the water by his life vest, and learned that his arm had been cut by the boat’s propeller after he fell overboard while filming a year-end video for students.
“I was surprised to see what I saw because that [part of his body] was under the water,” Jillian said. “He was just screaming ‘My arm! My arm!’ the whole time. I began to lift him out of the water and my friend Katlyn [Lindahl] helped me with the process and somebody else grabbed his feet.”
Once Ryan was in the boat, Katlyn used a towel and Jillian’s shirt to create a tourniquet for Ryan’s arm in an effort to slow the bleeding. One of the other people on the boat called 911.
Jillian, 17, focused on keeping Ryan calm and awake until medical help arrived. She said the trip back to shore took about a minute, but felt much longer, and about another minute passed before medical professionals arrived at the dock to transport Ryan by medevac to Stony Brook University Hospital, where he immediately went into surgery.
Ryan explained that he had two surgeries on his arm: the immediate trauma surgery and another a month later.
The second surgery removed nerves from his leg and put them in his left shoulder in an effort to repair the damaged brachial plexus nerves. He still doesn’t have use of his tricep.
“It’s good to focus on how good he’s doing now, which is inspiring,” said Jillian, who has been sailing with Ryan since both were 8 years old. “It’s amazing. It’s only a couple months out and if you saw him you wouldn’t be able to tell that it really happened … it’s amazing he never got down on himself or anything.”
Jillian said she’s proud of herself, of Katlyn and of the others onboard who came together to get Ryan the help he needed as quickly as possible.
Their efforts haven’t gone unnoticed, either. Jillian, Katlyn and Ryan were honored by the Suffolk County Legislature in October and Jillian was honored by the Shoreham-Wading River Board of Education at a recent meeting.
Ryan is also grateful for what his friends did for him in August.
“It felt really good because I’ve known Jillian for years, we’ve known each other since we were born, and Katlyn and I have been really good friends for a long time,” Ryan said. “Having them there and helping me and having saved my life, it was great. It was as good as it could be.”
Photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River High School senior Jillian Dinowitz was honored by the SWR Board of Education this month for her heroic efforts in a rescue that took place in August. (Credit: Nicole Smith)