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.