Nursing student's bravery recognized by Governor General
When Laura MacDonald (NSc’13) jumped into frigid Lake Ontario in March 2010 to rescue a young woman, she gave no thought to her own safety.
“Basically, it was just instinct,” she says. “This person was in trouble and we needed to do something. My only thought was to jump in there and get her out.”
Ms MacDonald’s quick reaction saved the life of the woman who was drowning off the pier near the King Street Water Treatment Plant. She received the Governor General’s Medal of Bravery at a ceremony inside Rideau Hall last week.
“While I routinely find good reason to be impressed with the character of students at Queen’s, I must say that the selfless courage and exceptional compassion shown by Ms MacDonald is truly inspiring,” says Principal Daniel Woolf.
Ms MacDonald, who lived in McNeill House at the time, and her friends were out for a late night walk along the shoreline when they heard a woman struggling in the water. They used a life ring to bring the victim closer to the pier, but she was too far down to be pulled to safety.
After she jumped into the water, Ms MacDonald used the rugby skills she developed as a high school student. Similar to lifting up a teammate to receive the ball during a line-out, she boosted the victim high enough so that her friends on the pier could pull the victim out of the water.
Ms MacDonald says it was an honour to be recognized by Governor General David Johnston along with 50 other Canadians.
“The experience was really humbling. Looking back on it I didn’t jump in the water thinking I would get a medal or an award,” she says. “It was incredible to be in a room with the other recipients who did really courageous things.”
Nearly three years after the incident, Ms MacDonald can vividly recall the details of that evening. The situation she found herself thrust into has left a lasting impression on the future nurse.
“The event doesn’t affect me on a day-to-day basis, but it does put into perspective how easy it is for someone to get into danger and how easy something can go wrong,” she says. “The experience has made me value life a lot more.”