Do you actually know what drowning looks like?
Have you ever seen someone drowning in real life?
It’s very different to what you see in the movies. If it wasn’t for a friend of mine telling me a story about a man who was actually watching his child drown and didn’t realize it, I might have been in the same situation. If it wasn’t for a quick thinking and trained former lifeguard who was watching that man’s 9 year old daughter, she would have drowned. The story gave me goosebumps and I thought to myself, “I will never let that happen to me.”
But it almost did.
“In ten percent of child drownings, an adult will actually watch them drown and have no idea what is happening.” Source
I took the girls to their regular swimming lessons on a Monday morning. They are in a semi-private lesson so it’s just the two of them. They are quite confident now and can swim on their own and their teacher is fantastic.
However, a couple of weeks ago we had a scary incident in which Olive started to drown. I am always at their swimming lessons watching on from a bench and their swimming instructor is in the water with them. Quite often I can be distracted on my phone, or I may even run to the restroom but have always been confident knowing there was an adult in the pool with them.
But on this one fateful day a couple of weeks ago, I happened to have my eyes on them. They were doing an exercise and swimming back to the wall one at a time. Olive went first and was almost at the wall when the teacher turned around to help Willow. In his defense, he thought Olive had made it back to the wall but at the very last minute she turned around to swim back to him and then panicked.
This was all happening before my eyes.
She looked like she was treading water but suddenly my friend’s words popped into my head about what drowning looked like and I knew instantly that’s what was happening.
So how did I know?
She wasn’t screaming and she wasn’t waving her arms around trying to get help.
Here are some key features of drowning.
- Quite often they are vertical in the water (not using their legs).
- Their head is low in the water, mouth at water level.
- They may be trying to roll over on their backs.
- They are quiet. Drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. The respiratory system was designed for breathing. Breathing must be fulfilled, before speech occurs.
- They cannot wave for help. Nature instinctively forces them to extend their arms laterally and press down on the water’s surface to help lift their mouths out of the water to breathe.
(For more in depth information about what drowning may look like, please read this article.)
Olive was doing most of these things. I ran over instantly and was close enough to be able to pull her out by her hair.
She cried and told me she was sinking to the bottom and it was so scary. It broke my heart and scared the life out of me.
I comforted her but then the teacher and I got her back in the pool. It was extremely important for me that this experience did not crush her love for swimming. I don’t blame the teacher. It could have happened to anyone. Olive should have been able to get to the wall easily but something made her panic and stop.
Since sharing this experience on Facebook, I have had a lot of people respond saying that the same thing has happened to their child but they were even older and more confident swimmers. They all of a sudden panic in the water and forget how to swim.
It just goes to show that you can never be too careful and supervision around water is VITAL, no matter how old or how confident a swimmer your child is. Sometimes they panic and need help. You just never know.
I’m sharing this story in hopes that you will share it with everyone you know. There are too many incidents of drowning that could have been prevented. I shudder to think what might have happened if I’d waited a few more seconds.