This week I have seen three. Three fatal drownings of children of various ages around the country and close to home. I know it won’t be the last. Each time one is reported it sends shivers down my spine and breaks my heart for not only the families involved, but the lifeguards and ﬁrst responders. I worry more than usual about my own kids swimming in our community lake or at friends pools. It cuts me more to the core than most. I was almost that statistic. My parents had backyard parties all the time when I was little, Our four foot, above ground pool was always teeming with neighborhood kids. No one ever worried about anyone drowning. There were parents and kids everywhere. My own parents thought I would be safe. I had my old school orange vest on. The kind with the little white clips in the front. My older brother was always a few feet from me. What could happen. This time was diﬀerent. This time I sat on the metal ladder watching all the older kids play and have fun. I was big enough to swim like them too. I unclipped my vest and slipped under the water. Silently. I never screamed or splashed. I simply sunk to the bottom of our pool. No one noticed.
I was about ﬁve at the time. I had always been around water. Growing up on Long Island you are either at the beach or in someones pool. My parents thought I was safe always wearing my orange vest. They never thought I would ever take it oﬀ or have the strength to unclip it. But I did. And no one noticed.
The rest of my story has been told to me. I simply don’t remember. My parents ﬁlled in the gaps. No one was really sure how long I was at the bottom of the pool. Someone realized the ﬁgure at the bottom of the pool was me. I was blue. Lifeless. My Dad, at the time a volunteer ﬁreman, pulled me out and did CPR on our backyard lawn. I came back. I was fortunate he knew CPR. This was the late 70’s and not as prevalent as it is today. I had come so close to dying. Right there in our own pool, surrounded by kids and adults.
It is so important to be vigilant when your kids are around water and to know what to look for. Don’t rely on swimmies, life vests or lifeguards or the fact that your kid “knows how to swim”. Things can happen so quickly. Drowning doesn’t look like drowning.
• It is silent. Children may be hyperventilating, unable to scream for help
• Heads may be tilted back to try to stay out of water, hair may be covering their faces. Look for expressions of stress or panic.
• Arms stay downward in the water trying to stay aﬂoat-not splashing
• Treading water for a long time-even if they are a good swimmer they may have gone too deep and aren’t strong enough to swim back in
• Floating face down for longer than 30 seconds-not ﬂoating for fun
• Isolated or even surrounded by other swimmers-struggling to stay aﬂoat The American Red Cross also issued the following guidelines: