I have tried, for several summers now, to teach Andrew how to swim.
We have signed up for adaptive lessons.
We have attempted to teach him the basics on our own.
We’ve prompted him to paddle, coaxed him to kick, yet, despite his love of the water, his body and brain refused to cooperate and coordinate.
So,we sort of gave up.
We figured we’d get back to it, “when he was ready.”
We vowed to never let him out of our sight near the water, and to always be mere inches away should he decide to stray towards the deeper end of a pool.
We stopped obsessing over it and figured we would take turns being his flotation devices.
And then, it happened.
Not to us, but it very well could have.
We were at a party on Saturday, celebrating the end of Ian’s first baseball season with his teammates.
There were a lot of adults. A lot of sober, responsible adults.
And there were a lot of kids. All in the pool. Splashing, jumping, swimming, laughing.
When suddenly, we heard it.
The kind of scream that can only come from the deepest depths of a mother fearing for the life of her child.
I watched, in what seemed to be a mixture of slow motion and hyper-speed, as her unresponsive three year old was fished out of the pool.
His face, smiling and rosy just moments before, was now a sickeningly shade of blue I never want to see again.
It felt like forever as they began to work on him, right there, on the water’s edge.
And then, without warning, the water came spilling out of his mouth, his eyes rolled open, and his lips began to quiver.
The cry that followed was sweet music to all of our ears.
“It was too deep,” he breathlessly whimpered to his daddy, as the air began to fill his lungs again.
The details of what happened are fuzzy, though I can tell you for certain that both of his parents are loving, kind, responsible adults who never imagined something like this could or would happen to them.
I write about this today not for shock value. I mean, I want to shock you, but not in a voyeuristic kind of way.
I want to shock you into swimming lessons, life jackets, CPR classes, and making certain that there are always adults who take turns being the designated lifeguards during these kinds of parties.
Because there were a lot of us.
But we all assumed everyone else was doing the watching, and that can be a dangerous, even fatal, assumption.
I have a renewed commitment to teach Andrew any swimming and water survival skills that he may be able to learn and that may help save his life someday, no matter how long it takes, no matter how much it costs. He will also be wearing his life jacket every time he steps foot near a pool. I am ashamed to say I had never even considered this to be an option, though it is something we are religious about when we go camping near lakes and rivers. To be quite honest, after what happened this past weekend, he may just be sleeping in the darn thing from now on. Thankfully, Ian is a good swimmer, though he will also spend part of his summer taking lessons and brushing up on water safety skills as well.
I have a renewed commitment to update my CPR and First Aid certifications, which expire this December, because as a mother, friend, wife, neighbor, and fellow human being, I feel that it is my duty to be the potential difference between life and death. And truthfully, the information should be reviewed as often as possible. It’s a lot to learn, and you hope you will remember it (or, even better, never have to use it) but that’s the kind of thinking that can lead to a disastrous outcome in an emergency.
Most importantly though, I have a renewed commitment to remember that nothing should ever be taken for granted, that our lives can change in a split second, and that our children, our precious, amazing, innocent children rely on us to help keep them safe.
I am overjoyed that after being transported to our local children’s hospital, this little boy was given a clean bill of health by the ER staff and will not be a statistic this summer.
But he very well could have been.
Based on what happened this last weekend, I want to leave you with some vital, potentially life-saving information and links to valuable resources on water safety:
1. Get your CPR certification. Like, yesterday.
2. If you witness a near drowning, and the child/adult is responsive, make sure they are upright until the EMT arrive. The reason for this is that someone can still drown hours later if there is still water in the lungs. Which means it is IMPERATIVE that even though the victim is talking, breathing, etc, you get them to the hospital for a full range of tests, including lung and brain function.
3. Never assume that someone else is watching the kids in the water. Make it a priority to determine who will keep watch, and once that determination is made, that person’s attention should ONLY be on the pool and the kids and not anything or anyone else.
4. Review water safety with your children. Rinse, lather, repeat.
Check out these links for more info:
They say that drowning is the silent killer.
Because the sound of that mother’s screams, as she watched her son’s limp body being pulled out of the pool, is something I will never forget.
And it’s something I hope you never have to hear for yourself.
10 Replies to “The Day I Saw A Boy Almost Drown”
I’m surprised at how many parents of not-special-needs kids say “We’ll tackle swimming when they are ready”.
I want to yell at the wealthy mother (who can afford ANY lessons) across the street with a seven year old child who “doesn’t want to learn and we respect his decision” in regards to swimming. All three of my kids were put into survival swim lessons at age 2. My eldest, most sensitive, cried for FOUR MONTHS every week during lessons. I thought of pulling him out because I was essentially wasting money. I’m glad I suck with it for all my kids. They are amazing swimmers.
I think a lot of our generation of parents (and those before us) learned to swim from OUR parents, and so many people assume that’s how their children will learn as well.
At this point, after witnessing this terrible almost-tragedy, I don’t care if I have to get Michael Phelps himself to come down here and give lessons. Andrew.Will.Learn.To.Swim. Period.
Hearing this story come from you Saturday in person gave me chills. Reading your words in this blog post makes me afraid….VERY afraid for this summer. I am forwarding this to Presley’s sitter and am offering to pay for her CPR classes asap. As a near drowning victim myself at age 5, the memory has NEVER left me. It takes a split second. THANK YOU for writing about this. 🙂
I want to add that a responsible pool owner should have a plan in place for parties. On friend had her husband build a mini lifeguard chair. Each guest is reponsible for signing up for a 15 minute shift on pool duty. And when it’s your turn, your butt must be in the chair. My sister-in-law has a big life ring that she decorated really cute. When you are on duty, you stand pool side wearing the wring. No kids get in the pool until someone is wearing the ring and the kids are informed that that person is the boss! They make the rules!
When my daughter was a toddler we were sitting at a party. A group of us were sitting around a small fountain that she was playing with. Without any noise she slipped upside down into the water. No noise, no struggle. If we hadn’t seen it happen we wouldn’t have known until we found her. It was so scary to realize that drowning is silent and a child doesn’t struggle.
We are really strict with our pool. Everyone knows that if there is no adult beside the pool you can’t enter the pool enclosure and the adults know that if you want to leave the pool edge somone must replace you. It’s our rules or no swimming and everyone has been really understanding.
We have four children, ages 13 to 4 years old. The two older children swim very well after years of lessons. The two younger children have never had lessons, but that won’t be true by Saturday afternoon. We live across the street from my parents and their pool. We are not as diligent as we should be when we are eating burgers or hooking up the outdoor speakers. Our 6 year old girl and 4 year old boy usually play on the steps. A child can drown in just a couple of inches of water. I. Know. This. I haven’t just dropped the ball…I left the field. Thank you for a wake-up call that was much gentler than it could have been.
Katch-a-kid makes affordable pool nets (under $2,000) that can help with day to day safety–easy on and easy off (for an adult).
I often think that hiring a lifeguard might be a good solution—but feel the absolute best solution is to be keeping an eye on your own kids at all times.
We just bought a house this spring. It came with beautiful in-ground pool. We are filling it in asap, all the while listening to friends and family say “why are you getting rid of it?”. We have 2 children, 5yr and 13months. Maybe if we had teenagers with a drive to swim we’d think about keeping it, but right now the only thing I can see it as is a danger and a money pit. It is scary to think how something so fun could be so deadly.
Thanks Jo for giving me the kick in the butt that I needed to get my CPR certification. It was being offered free at my work (nice I know!) but I was on the fence about it. This article was God’s way of saying ‘You need to do this’ so I did!
We do have a net on our pool and I can tell you from personal experience THEY WORK! And they’re very low profile. We have a very small back yard and the gate made it look that much smaller. When my son was under 2 he rode a motorized toy to the middle of the pool and the net held him!