December 23, 2019 by Allison Laney
Drowning IS preventable. And to NOT prevent it… is simply unbearable.
It was just another day of summer when the ambulance line rang with report of another drowning coming in, “….down for unknown amount of time, found in a retention ditch, CPR on scene by mother, regained pulse, ETA: 4 minutes.” The nursing trauma team rushed around the trauma room in preparation of the toddlers arrival.
Suddenly, one of our peers ran through the doors frantically crying. His daughter had drown and she was en route. All of our hearts dropped from out of our chests right on to the EMERGENCY ROOM floor. You could hear them pounding in your ears. We all stopped. We all mumbled something about encouragment.
We all hugged him, and then the ambulance doors rushed open. We had work to do…..
Seven (7) drownings, I was privy too when I worked in both the emergency department and ICU. Seven screaming and frantic parents. Seven, cute little swim suits that were still wet when cut off, never to be worn again.
Loved ones with bare feet, on a dirty, germ infested floor. I don’t really know why the bare feet sticks with me most, I think it’s the disbelief that you were just having THAT much fun only moments before. Then your life threw you such a big curve-ball that you literally forgot your shoes.
We give our kids vaccines to PROTECT them from awful diseases. Vaccines full of scary things. Yet, we hesitate to enroll them in swim lessons. Swim lessons that are not only fun and amazing, but they are good for their cognitive and motor function.
Why do you hesitate? Price? Timing? Doubt? Age? Availability? I’ve heard an excuse for every reason.
Later that day I found myself scouring the internet. I was so perplexed by this sweet, sweet child. Perhaps for the first time it dawned on me….why didn’t this baby know how to swim, dang it! It hurt most because it was my co-workers baby. But it always hurt when it was a kid regardless of what was happening.
But, how did this happen over and over again? I always thought it was someone who was drinking or not paying attention that this happened too. Not responsible parents who were simply getting dressed for their work day, for goodness sakes!
I kept finding these videos on the internet about this little baby that fell in to the pool and rolled over and floated. He didn’t drown. HE FLOATED. & HE WAS LITTLE!
Neat. But I didn’t have any kids. I mentally stored it and went on about my life.
The next summer, I had my first baby boy. We live in sunny, south Mississippi where the only way to survive the heat is to find some water to play in! So on a Sunday, when an old friend, her hubby and their son stopped over for an afternoon swim. My newborn was inside sleeping so I sat on the side with my legs dangling in the cool water. It was so great to be outside for a moment!
Her son wore his arm floats. Safety first, right? He jumped in, came up, jumped in, came up. Over and over again. He was having such a blast! He needed to potty so she pulled the wings off. Afterwards, he played on the steps between the 3 of us. We leisurely chatted while he jumped off of the bottom step. We stared at him while he stared right up at us…..from the bottom of the pool……
Holy cow!!! We all LEAPT in to action!!! It took about 20 seconds before it dawned on us that he no longer had his floats on. Whew. We fussed because, well….”what a silly boy he was being!” Why would he do that to scare us, he knew he didn’t have on his floats anymore?
Ummm…Close call! Boys will be boys.
But. What. The. Heck. Was. That.
He literally just looked up at us?! We were within arms reach, why didn’t he reach out for one of us?!?!
The next day I was assigned to the ER triage and decided to check my hospital email. In an email from the CDC came an eery message, “Drowning doesn’t look like what you think.” I opened the message and read how a child SILENTLY slips in, often right NEXT to THEIR loved ones. How they appear as if they are LOOKING up, while standing on the bottom of the pool. How they DO NOT thrash, they don’t yell for help or make any ATTEMPT to swim. They simply push their arms down in their tiny attempt to get out and they look to the sky for air.
What the what?! That’s EXACTLY what had happened the day before. I quickly texted my friends and said, HEY! Guess what?! Your boy could have drown yesterday! I don’t think he was being silly at all! We all breathed sighs of relief. Thank God we were there. How crazy! How eye opening! All the standard verbiage.
Are you aware that in kids under 4, drowning is the leading cause of fatality, second only to birth defects according to the CDC?
Less than a month later, we had some of our NAVY pals stop by to borrow a tool and said, Hey! We have some extra hot dogs! Wanna swim and stay for awhile? They had 3 little boys who were excited for the pool! Arm floats and puddle jumpers were safely fastened, and a good time commenced! Two grown men, dads each to one of the boys who were excitedly jumping in, and “swimming” over with their floats on. The three boys happily repeated the cycle over and over.
Until Carter decided he was hungry. Out of the pool he came to sit and wait on his hot dog. Floats were discarded and if you have ever met a 3 year old boy, you know he was sitting very PATIENTLY waiting on his dog to be done! His mother and I, sat on the side of the pool holding our newborns, nursing them and laughing with one another.
She asked me 2 minutes later, “Where did he go? HE WAS JUST SITTING BEHIND YOU! Can you see him? Carter!” She called. The second she screamed CHRIS! We all locked eyes on him in the shallow end of the pool. His dad (who was in the pool) scooped him up and handed him to me, his mouth was purple. I was to begin resuscitating him, when he started puking all over me. We lived exactly 8 minutes from the nearest ER. I think they made it in 5, quicker than any ambulance could have arrived.
I found some shoes later, bare feet….
Carter is a happy and thriving little boy who came home from an intensive care unit 2 days later, completely unscathed. Labeled as ‘Drowning-without fatality’. I taught him how to survive and rescue himself in a water emergency if it were to happen again, in the very same pool, he had drown in the summer before.
No child in my personal pool will ever drown again because they don’t know how to swim if I can help it! Floaties are dangerous and are the reason our kids drown!
Did you know that for every child that will drowns another 5 children will receive emergency care for a near-drowning?
He is the reason I know that any excuse or reason you THINK swim lessons aren’t necessary or worth it. THAT THEY ARE. Accidents WILL happen with responsible adults all within an arms reach.
So tell me again, why do you hesitate? Price? Timing? Doubt? Age? Availability?
Some will say pricing. “It costs $80 to bring Tiny Tim to my local YMCA for (1) hour lesson.” It costs $100 per week to do those survival type lessons. $80 well, that’s a bargain! Yep, your right! It sure is! There will be approximately 6 kids in that class, and if Tiny Tim doesn’t have a fairly developed skill already, he’ll likely sit on the top step the majority of the time! Causing you to enroll him in extra classes, (let’s just say 4 times). $320 later did Tim learn how to swim? Did he learn how to do the swim strokes if he’s old enough? Did he learn how to float? Don’t forget his teacher is home from college at the ripe old age of 18, with a job status of temporary lifeguard…….
Or the timing……”I hear those survival lessons are only ten minutes long. What on earth can he learn in 10 minutes?”
Utilizing a child’s attention span while teaching a life saving skill is crucial! I need them to pay attention to me! Well I don’t have time to get him there four days a week. Is there no one that loves your sweet babe enough that would be willing to help you get them back and forth to lessons? I know 90% of us do. I see it every summer! Nanny’s, grandparents, friends, all taking shifts to get YOUR kid some life saving skills. It just takes asking for help just this one time mama.
Doubt? What is it that you doubt? I know this about my own children: They are capable of ANYTHING! I will make sure that they ROAR at anything life throws their way!! Especially if they are taught by someone who is full of passion for swimming and compassion for children!
Or maybe your confused about traditional versus survival lessons. I mean I realllllyyyy want Tiny Tim to know how to SWIM! Not just float on his back. Let’s UNDERSTAND the difference.
“According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children aren’t ready for formal swimming until their fourth birthday but there are ‘survival’ swimming lessons that begin at age six months that teach a young child how to roll on to their back in hopes a parent will pull them out to safety. “
Yes, AAP you got that right! Survival swimming teaches floating as the core of a swimming technique. As an infant a baby will learn how to fall in hold their breath, immediately roll onto their back to float and cry out until someone can get them out of the pool. This…papa bear buys you some time!! Moments to get to them!
If there is any water at your house you better make dang sure that is the first place your looking when they ain’t answering you, mmmkay!
A toddler learns how to add a very small swim on to that float as they grow. A preschooler learns how to even further that swim, float, swim again until he is able to pull themselves out or hang on to the wall. Finally, a young school-aged child takes that float he learned as a baby and now learns how to back stroke. The float put quite simply is where they breathe, take a rest, and most importantly; it is the core to it all. Yep, A back float is the core of swimming.
Traditional lessons will either use a flotation device to teach swimming. Or possibly a dog paddle style of swimming with a kick board. What happens if your child is in the center of a very large pool and they get too tired to continue swimming? How will they rest? They DO get tired. What WILL they do? Where will they go to rest if they can’t reach the side of the pool. Or perhaps it’s an open body of water?
Now please hear me, there are some amazing traditional swim instructors doing great lessons for school aged children. But survival instructors specialize in infant swimming.
I am so scared because my son has special needs! I am so scared my baby will cry the entire time! Y’all, my baby cries the entire trip in to town! Come on now. Babies cry. It’s how they communicate. Unless you know a 6 month old that can say, “Hey, I’m nervous! Your not my mama! I’m a little hungry, I’m sleepy, this water is cold and I’m a little unsure of myself!” Well guess what? They are gonna cry.
I have worked with an array of children who THRIVE in survival lessons with special needs. In fact, our teaching styles are based off of child development and psychology so we know what works and how to identify what does not work. Not to mention, I have seen my kiddos with low muscle tone, start walking. I have seen my kids who were struggling with potty training graduate as toilet trained little ones.
Why? Why does all of this happen with survival lessons?
Because this style of swimming gives them independence. And if you have ever met a two year old.
What do they want? To do it alllllll their-self of course.