I share this story every single summer and I will do it as long as this blog is alive because it’s important to my family to let others know how simple and easy it is for a child to drown.
Tomorrow morning we will get up at an unnatural hour and head to the divisional swim meet. All three of our girls will wait until their events and then race across the pool, hoping to be the best in our division. All three of them are strong swimmers. One is a sprinter in the breast and butterfly, one is finding her stride in the individual medley and our youngest has all the sudden emerged as a possible butterflyer.
But that wasn’t always the case. Tomorrow we will celebrate the amazing swimmers they have all become but 7 years ago we almost lost our youngest daughter in a pool during a simple and fun birthday party.
What do you think drowning looks like?
7 years ago I was one of the people that thought drowning looks like what you see on TV. Someone will start splashing wildly, possibly yelling for help. If that fails then you’ll see them face down floating horizontally in the water and be able to easily spot them and rescue them.
Drowning does not look anything like that and we learned it the hard way.
When do children drown?
Many people think that parties and groups with a lot of adults are a safe time for kids to swim. Everyone assumes that there’s plenty of eyes on the water. How could a child drown if there are adults literally sitting around the edge of the pool?
Many childhood drownings happen at parties or get-togethers because everyone assumes that someone else is watching.
How long does it take for a child to drown?
A blink of an eye.
People assume that parents are horrible parents when they hear about a drowning because surely the parent wasn’t watching. It takes seconds for the child to slip away. No one stares at their child all day long. Accidents happen.
How do I know all of this? It’s our story. This is my daughter’s story.
When our youngest daughter was almost two years old, good friends of ours from church invited us over for a birthday pool party. The party was full of parents from our church and community that we looked up to and tried to learn from. The parents of the birthday boy were so prepared that they even hired a lifeguard to watch the pool during the party because they knew parents would be distracted.
The party wound down and there were just a few of us left. All of the big kids were out of the big pool, the ones that were left were playing in the hot tub so the lifeguard left. My youngest girl was the only one in the pool, as she stood at my feet and played on the pool steps with her bucket and shovel.
Were other parents near the pool? Yes. We were all actually sitting on the edge of the pool with our feet in the water, talking. There were parents on three sides of the pool.
My husband came up to talk to me quickly about our plans to leave and I turned my head briefly to talk to him. I wasn’t worried about taking a second to talk to him because she was at my feet, I thought I would hear or feel if she fell off the step. Plus there were people surrounding the edge of the pool. It was safe, right?
A second later our oldest screamed, “Ellie’s in the water! Ellie’s in the water!”. I will never forget that scream or what we saw next. We all turned to where she was pointing and 8 feet away from me was my child, floating vertically in the water, her hands floating perfectly still next to her body.
It was a sight that took me 3 years of swim team practices and watching her race down the pool in swim meets to finally get over the fear and dread that came with it.
I dove in and reached her first and my husband grabbed her from me and handed her off to someone else. Her love of sugar and a faithful God saved her life because she had a sucker in her mouth, even when we pulled her out, that she refused to spit out. The sucker had made her naturally hold her breath. Even so, she still threw up a bit of water and wasn’t herself for a few minutes.
We had to watch her closely all night for signs of dry drowning, where water in the lungs or airway causes them to drown on dry land.
It was a terrifying event in our life. It’s something that I don’t want anyone reading this to experience.
It only took seconds when I thought that I would hear something or someone else would see something if she fell into the pool.
One of the things that helped me the most immediately after this happened was a friend telling me that they had a similar experience. Why? Because I looked up to her, and still do to this day, and it helped to accept the fact that I wasn’t a bad parent, it was an accident.
Tomorrow once again she’s going to dive into the pool and race to the other side, every stroke once again defeating the water that tried to take her life.
And then do you know what she’s going to do? She’s going to ask for a snowcone.
How can you help prevent childhood drowning?
- Learn what drowning really looks like.
- Buy a Puddlejumper for any young children. These were just coming out when this accident happened but I know they have saved countless lives since that time.
- Don’t assume someone else is watching the children in the pool.
- Put your kids in swim lessons.
- Teach your children to scream and yell until help arrives if they see another child in the pool.
- If you have shared a similar experience, share your story so other parents will be aware of how easily this can happen to anyone.