When she was a teenager, several of her family members had come over for an afternoon pool party. As the day wore on, people began to migrate from the pool in to the house. After a certain point of time, her sister-in-law became concerned that she hadn't seen her three-year-old son. People started looking for him although everyone had assumed someone else had him.
Because surely someone was watching the baby. Right?
My girlfriend went out to the pool area and after a quick scan of the pool, didn't see him. But she did notice that several of the inflatable pool toys had congregated in the far corner of the deep end. When she went over to the deep end and started pulling the various toys out of the pool, she found her three-year-old nephew floating under a raft.
Sadly, he was long gone.
Not many years later, my girlfriend's family hosted an exchange student from Israel. He was married and actually had a wife and two small children that remained at home while he came to the United States to finish up his college degree. He didn't know how to swim and although my friend's brothers often told him that they would be more than happy to teach him in the family pool, he never took them up on their offer.
Probably because he was embarrassed.
One afternoon, when the family returned home from a day out, they noticed that the back door leading to the pool area was open. Just as they stepped outside to close the door, they caught the sight of someone on the bottom of the pool. It was the exchange student, who had tried to teach himself to swim when he didn't have anyone watching.
Sadly, he wasn't successful.
Within a matter of days the family had the pool filled in with concrete and a few months later, they moved.
When I was a child, a three-year-old little girl that lived down the street fell in to her family pool. It was January and she fell right through the cover in to the stagnant water below. She might have drowned if not for her brother that told her mother that she had fallen in to the pool and the level-headed mother who ran outside, jumped in to the pool, tore through the cover and pulled her blue toddler out. She administered Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and her baby survived.
When I was a teenager and on the swim team, I remember showing up for practice one day and spotting an unusually large object on the bottom of the pool. There was a moment of stunned disbelief when I thought, "Is that what I think it is?" before I started to yell for help. Sure enough, a young girl who had been part of an afternoon swim class and had been playing on the pool ropes slipped over in to the deep end. Almost everyone who had been standing pool side jumped in at the same time to rescue her. She was administered CPR and taken by ambulance to a local hospital. From what I recall, she was in a coma for two weeks before regaining consciousness. But sadly, she sustained brain damage from oxygen depletion.
Last summer over Labor Day weekend, when I was sitting at the neighborhood pool with my mother, we noticed that there was a helicopter circling a few miles away. On the news later that night, we heard that a young child who had been playing in the pool - surrounded by her family - had ventured in to water that was too deep. After several minutes, it was discovered that she had sunk to the bottom. They helicoptered her to Children's Hospital but it was too late. Even though her family had been there, actually in the water with her. Even though there was a lifeguard on duty. In the blink of an eye, she was gone.
Having worked as a lifeguard and taught swimming lessons, I have a moral obligation of stressing the importance of knowing how to swim. And as the daughter in-law of Kathleen, "Gator-Head Grannie", I feel compelled to use my blog as a platform to propagate drowning prevention.
Kathleen is amazing and in addition to winning countless GOLD medals (not silver or bronze) for swimming in the Senior Olympics, she has swum from Alcatraz Island to Fisherman's Wharf. Now she is swimming 100 miles, with a bottle on her head, to raise awareness for drowning prevention.
Last week, she swam in the Bahamas and taught local children how to swim.
Earlier this year, she swam in 41 degree Alaskan glacier water, sans wetsuit.
If you do not know how to swim, please do not be embarrassed.
Instead, make it your mission to learn.
You never know when you might need to save someone's life - or your own. There are classes offered through a variety of different organizations. Swimming lessons are typically available in most communities through private gymnasiums and programs such as the American Red Cross, Swim America, public schools, YMCAs, and sports clubs.
This is a fantastic link (HERE) that I suggest everyone click through to read about water safety and some of the myths about drowning. Here are some of the facts taken directly from the article:
- Most drownings occur in less than four feet of water.
- When you assume everyone is watching, usually no one is. Unless someone is diligently watching the water (including the pool bottom), the individual may go unnoticed until it is too late for resuscitation (CPR) to be effective.
- Flotation devices (floats, noodles, rafts, etc.) usually require an individual to hold on, sit on, or lay on the device and are not dependable. Among other risks, flotation devices increase the chance of weak swimmers falling off in water that is deeper than they would swim in without the float.
- Drowning victims typically do not thrash, splash, or yell for help. Many drownings are "silent"; a person has submerged and is unable to return to the surface therefore, the struggle occurs underwater and the victim makes no sound.
- Accidents are never expected events, and therefore can happen to anyone at any time. Being prepared to react and give care during an emergency can often be the difference between life and death -- for yourself as well as the person in trouble.
Socks. Shoes. Shirt. Pants. Hat.
(Possibly holding a fishing rod.)
Many years ago, I was very involved in synchronized swimming. During one of the regional shows that our team put on, I was required to do a cartwheel in to the pool wearing a long flowing nightgown over my team bathing suit. The plan was that once I was in the water, I would simply pull the nightgown off, leaving behind my suit.
Since I had been sick with the flu the entire week leading up to the performance, I had never had the opportunity to have a dress rehearsal. So the first time I attempted this move was when I was under the spotlight in front of 200 people. Suffice to say, the experience of swimming when you are fully clothed is entirely different than when you are in a bathing suit. And when I went underwater and was wrapped in a soaking wet nightgown that stuck to my head and arms and I couldn't tell which way was up, it took everything in my power to not flail to the surface screaming for help.
Even if you are hanging out at the pool, life jackets on children who do not know how to swim are a GOOD idea. Of course if your child is 22-months old and goes by the name of Henry, it would probably be easier to saddle a bucking Bronco than put them in a life jacket. But safety is one of those few things that cannot be negotiated. Also, just because your child has a life jacket on, does not preclude you from watching them at all times.
Seeing as this is Memorial Day weekend, are you familiar with the the ABC's for Drowning Prevention?
A: ALWAYS watch your kids around water. Although I have my hands full when I take all four children to the pool by myself, I feel the safest when I am on my own because I know that I am fully responsible for their safety. They know that they have to play in one area because I can't be diverting my eyes from one spot of the pool to another. And if they don't abide by my rules, we go home. If you are at a body of water with multiple people, task at least ONE PERSON with being a spotter. It is their job to keep their eyes on the water to make sure people in and around the water are safe. Don't make the mistake of assuming that this is being done.
B: BARRIERS must be installed to keep children away from water if you are near a pool or a other water body. Don't assume that just because you tell a child to stay away from water, they will listen to you. If you live in an area where there is a nearby water body and you have small children, keep your doors and windows locked. I have heard too many stories of children who walked out an open door - or climbed through a fence - and drowned in either their own pool or a neighbor's.
C: CLASSES and CPR. If you or your child doesn't know how to swim, LEARN. If your child is too young (personally, I don't think that children are truly capable of understanding and/or having the physical strength to swim until they are 3.5 to 4 years old), the development of safety awareness, water skills, and a sense of enjoyment of the water should begin at home in the bathtub.
If someone collapsed in front of you - or you pulled someone who was unconscious from a body of water - would you know how to administer CPR?
Two rescue breaths, followed by 30 chest compressions?
Then what are you looking at?
Leave a comment on THIS post and tell me what you are planning to do for Memorial Day Weekend. I am going to take the total number of comments and randomly select someone to win a CPR Anytime Kit. This compact kit allows you to learn and teach, the simple and yet critical technique that could save the life of a loved one. You have your choice of a dark skinned or light skinned mannequin, although I'm fairly certain, color doesn't matter.
I'll select a winner on Monday night. Until then, just think how great it would be if you won. You could host parties where people from your neighborhood come over and in 22 minutes, learn how to resuscitate someone. And then, you could have a potluck.
I seriously think you'd be the coolest house on the block.
Now, if you're concerned about the spread of infectious diseases during the course of administering CPR, you can always pick up a few of these CPR Medic pouches. We actually have one in each one of our vehicles, and I carry one in my diaper bag, purse and briefcase. I like to always be prepared.
And ... well ... it seems I have a problem leaving the house with less than 50 pounds of stuff.