‘I would have done it for anyone’
THE day Cayla Sweeney saved her dad's life is not something the teenager often talks about.
It is a bittersweet moment for the 13-year-old, a memory of her father in the canals near her Runaway Bay home, the day she dived into bullshark infested waters to save his life.
It was January 12, 2018 and the Sweeney family had just returned from a caravanning trip down to Byron Bay, when Cayla, her brother Blake, 10, and her dad Neil, decided to paddle their kayaks down to the shops.
Neil, had been sick for a while, a couple of bouts of brain surgery to remove tumours had left their beloved dad suffering seizures.
"We got maybe seven houses down, Blake, was in his own kayak and I was in a double one with dad and I thought that he was just mucking around tipping it back and forward," Ms Sweeney said.
"He ended up falling face first into the water and I looked behind and said, 'what are you doing,' and he was having a massive seizure in the water.
"I immediately dived in and rolled him onto his back, like I was trained to do at surf lifesaving, he was still seizuring when I swam him into the middle of the water, I was making sure his airway was clear.
"I started screaming for help, a neighbour came out and dialled triple 0 and then two ambulances showed up and he dived in, I was trying to hold him up out of the water and then another neighbour grabbed him by a life jacket and pulled him out."
A couple of months after Cayla bravely saved her dad's life, he sadly passed away, leaving behind a massive hole in the Sweeney family.
She said saving her dad's life that day, gave her family an extra few months with him.
"I was age champion two of the three years that I was there at Surfers Paradise, I knew first-aid, CPR, safety swim and we'd practice rescuing people.
"I don't think it's that big of a deal, I was just doing what I had to do.
"It was tough, I didn't have a choice, he wouldn't have been there for the three or four more months that we did get to have him, if I didn't do what I did do.
"I had to do it, I would have done it in any circumstances, for anybody."
Cayla's mum, Shelley, said she was incredibly proud of her daughter.
"Neil had been really well, hence why he went in the kayak. He had two brain surgeries by that point, people are probably thinking, why was he in a kayak, well you got to keep living.
"If she hadn't of turned him over, he would have drowned.
"They found a third brain tumour in February … he didn't come through that one very well, because it was quite deep down into the brain stem.
"He ended up with a blood clot in the lung … Neil passed away a short time later."
Cayla will be awarded a Commendation For Brave Conduct in the coming days, but isn't looking for recognition.
"If anyone asks me about it, I'll just be like, 'yeah'."