What You Should Know About Drowning and How You Can Reduce the Risk

May 29, 2017

Today is Memorial Day in the United States. It is a holiday to remember those who have lost their lives while fighting for our country. Our local YMCA had a fantastic display of flags, in honor of those service members. It was beautiful.

Memorial Day and Drowning

Memorial Day also marks the beginning of boating and swimming season across the country. Lakes and pools overflow with activity.  In the last 72 hours we have been at a friend’s pool, our neighborhood pool and at the lake.

A couple of years ago we went swimming at a friend’s backyard pool in the summertime. It was me, an eleven year-old girl we were hosting through a charitable medical program, my then five year-old son, my twin three year-olds and my friend and her three year-old daughter.

My friend and I joke that my youngest son is in an arranged marriage with her daughter because we expect them to both be very tall. Every time we get together we do a back-to-back measurement to make sure he is still a little bit taller.

If he isn’t, we may have to call off the marriage. 😉

Height - Drowning

It’s just something silly and cute we do.

While the kids were all swimming, my youngest son had to use the restroom, so I took him inside. When we came back out I returned to my place at the end of the pool beside my friend to watch over the kids, who were all wearing life vests of some sort.  My son went down to the other end of the pool.

It was hard to see the children though, as the pool was slightly obstructed by floats of all sorts of shapes and sizes including a very large orca.

Minutes later, that orca would save my son’s life.

Swim Floats and Drowning

When we came back outside from using the restroom, I completely forgot to put his puddle jumper back on. He did not know how to swim.  He did not remember his puddle jumper either.

A few minutes later, he appeared behind me shaking, with gray lips. He had jumped into her 10 feet deep pool, rose to the surface and unable to swim somehow grasped the orca. He then somehow made it to the side of the pool and got out.

None of the other children noticed.

We never heard him scream. We never saw him struggle.

Sometimes I lay awake at night thinking of what happened, and how it could have gone differently – how he could have drowned. It is what nightmares are made of. It keeps me awake at night – even now – almost 3 years later.

My son is lucky.  I am lucky.

We could not see him because of the abundance of floats in the pool.  Regardless, I cannot say for sure that we would have seen him even if the floats weren’t there.  We were sitting at the other end watching and chatting.  But, it’s kind of like talking on the phone while driving, you don’t see the road like you do if you are not on the phone.

According to the Centers for Disease Control unintentional injuries (drowning, car accident, poisoning, etc.) are the leading cause of death of children aged 0-19 in the United States. The leading cause of unintentional injury death in children aged 1 to 4 is drowning.

Recently, we went to a five year-old’s birthday party at a backyard pool. One of the 5 year-old party goers had to be rescued moments into the party.  Several moms and a couple of dads flanked the pool and quickly noticed her struggling.  A mom jumped in to rescue her.  She was not screaming or flailing, yet she was in distress.

Several years ago we were at our neighborhood swimming pool. I did not have children at the time, but I was there with my sister and five of her children. As we watched them play from our lounge chairs on the other side of the pool, a young boy about two years-old walked over to the side and jumped in. His mother was on her phone about 15 feet away. His father appeared to be watching from across the pool, but was engrossed in conversation with another man.

The boy sank. He did not come back up.

The lifeguard did not see him.

My sister and I screamed at her daughter who was close by to grab him. She pulled him up and sat him on the side of the pool.  He started screaming and his mother then came running over.

My niece saved his life.

It takes about one second for someone, especially a child, to get into a difficult situation in water.  And, to make it even more difficult – drowning is silent.  I almost drowned once and I know from my personal experience, I could not scream.  My arms and legs were frozen below water.  My head was back and my mouth was barely above the water.   It is only by the grace of God, and a current that pushed me to a rock, that I survived.

Because we are in the season of swimming and boating, my husband suggested it might be helpful to share some facts about drowning and how to avoid the risk.  Here they are:

Seven Things You Should Know About Drowning

  1. Drowning is silent. There is no screaming or yelling.
  2. Victims fail to kick and do not flap their arms.
  3. Victims are in a vertical position in the water and their head may be tilted back with their mouth open.
  4. Their hair might be in their face, as they are unable to wipe it off.
  5. Eyes are glassy.
  6. Their legs and arms are mostly under the water and they appear to be climbing an invisible ladder.
  7. Once someone is in distress it takes 20-60 seconds for them to go under and not resurface.

Eight Things to Lower the Risks for You and Your Children

  1. Learn to swim and teach your kids to swim.  A friend of mine in Arizona highly recommends the Infant Swim methodology.  We personally had a fantastic experience at Little Otter Swim School, which is local to our area. If the aforementioned options are unavailable to you, look into lessons at your local YMCA or community center.  Or, ask a mom group on social media – such groups exist in just about every community.
  2. Always supervise swimming.  If you need to go inside or away from supervising, then everyone needs to get out of the water.
  3. Lifeguards aren’t foolproof.  Don’t rely completely upon them.
  4. Tell your child never to hang onto another child in water.  They can push the other child under and hold them there without realizing the possible consequence.
  5. Take the floats out of the pool especially when there are multiple people swimming.  You cannot see.
  6. Require life vests in and around lakes and rivers and make sure they fit properly.
  7. Remember that bathtubs, fountains, buckets, pose great risks for drowning as well.  If you are bathing your child, take them out of the tub if you need to grab a towel, answer the phone, answer the door, etc.
  8. Know CPR.

Nothing is foolproof, but I hope these help you as you embark on your summer activities in and around the water.

As always, journey on and as safely as possible!

xo, Melissa a.k.a. the mamabrain at mamabrains


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