The Time My Son Nearly Drowned Within Arms Reach
Okay, so, maybe I’m being dramatic. But he came terrifyingly close to nearly drowning. It all happened so quickly and I was completely oblivious, despite the fact I was standing in the water with him less than a meter away.
One moment I was having a chat with a friend in another friend’s backyard pool and the next moment she was lunging across to my son and pulling him, coughing and spluttering, out of the water.
And I thought I was watching him the whole time.
I mean, I could see him, out of the corner of my eye. His head was above the surface. So he was fine. Or so I thought.
Bouncing Up And Down
Retrospectively, in the moments before my friend dove at him and yanked him out of the pool, I could see him jumped up and down beside me. Up and down. Up and down. That looks like a kid who’s just having fun, yeah? Just bouncing around in the water.
What really happened was his mouth and nose were just under the water, every time he jumped up he tried to call for help, but all he could do was take a breath before he went back down. Over and over. Bounce. Bounce. Bounce. The point where my friend grabbed his was when he stopped bouncing and was just standing, face deep in the water. He’d stopped moving. His body was starting to conserve energy. It’s called an Instinctive Drowning Response. He was starting to drown.
That’s what drowning really looks like. It’s silent. And subtle. It’s stillness.
Not shouting, waving, and calling for help.
It’s practically invisible.
Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning
And I already knew this. I’d actually read this article a couple of years prior about how drowning doesn’t look like drowning, and the scenario described in the article is almost exactly the same as my sons. Parents were right there in the water. But it was someone else who actually noticed their child was drowning. This is an American statistic from that page, but still absolutely chilling
…of the approximately 750 children who will drown next year, about 375 of them will do so within 25 yards of a parent or other adult.
That said, it’s been a few years, I’m not beating myself up too harshly about this anymore!
However, it was an important lesson for me to learn. And I’m so glad I was able to learn it without catastrophic consequences. We were all a bit shaken, but he was back in the water within a few minutes. Laughing and playing. Though I was keeping a close eye on him for any changes in his behaviour or any sign of illness, because of the risk of “Dry Drowning” or “Secondary Drowning”, which can happen hours or even days after accidentally inhaling water. But he was fine. Even though it gave us all a fright this really did all take place over a few seconds. So he was perfectly okay.
Some parents are not so lucky. According to the Royal Life Saving Society drowning is one of the biggest causes of death for children under four years of age in Australia.
How Can You Prevent Drowning
I think everyone in Australia is familiar with the Kids Alive Do the Five song, yeah? But it’s something all parents need to know and remember.
- Fence the pool – most drownings with children happen in backyard pools.
- Shut the gate – According to this study in Australia 18.2% of drownings of children aged 0-4 years the gate had been propped open.
- Teach your kids to swim – but just because they can swim doesn’t mean you should be complacent.
- Supervise – In all drownings of children under 4 supervision had lapsed or was completely absent. Supervision is the main way to prevent drowning. And “Active” supervision. Actually watching them. Not just being nearby in the water with them in your peripheral vision.
- Learn How To Resuscitate – I recently updated my CPR training and the trainer actually said that the success of CPR depends on why the person stopped breathing in the first place, and drowning – if caught in time – is one of the occasions where CPR can be incredibly effective.