Beware the Silence

Drowning can be deceptively silent.  People who are drowning in real life don’t look like they do on television.  There is no splashing, no screaming, no flailing about.  There is usually no noise at all.  Just eerily silent suffering.

I almost can’t bring myself to write this post, as the recall of memories still brings tears to my eyes and a physical pain to my heart.  But I am doing it to remind everyone to be vigilant this summer… at the pool, on the beach and on the lake.

At a community pool, with both Sheepdog and I right there, Kid C once almost drowned.  She had just turned four years old and she did not know how to swim on her own, so she wore one of those swim vests that zipped up the front and snapped under the crotch.  It kept her afloat while she learned the mechanics of swimming and developed strength in both her arms and legs.

She was sitting on a towel off to the side of the pool snacking on some fresh berries, and she had taken the vest off to be more comfortable.  When she was done she went back into the pool, forgetting to put the vest back on first.  She descended the pool steps, quickly – and oh so silently – she was submerged under the water.  A mother nearby noticed that she was perfectly still and miraculously yanked her out of the pool in time to keep her from drowning.  As she vomited strawberries and pool water all over me, I couldn’t believe how quiet everything had seemed.

I can tell you that this all happened in a matter of seconds and that, even in hindsight, both Sheepdog and I felt like we were being watchful.  You will most likely presume that we were distracted socializing with other parents or that maybe our attention was drawn elsewhere by another child.  Neither of those things is true.  I have gone over those seconds in my head more times than seems humanly possible and I still don’t have all of the answers.  I can tell you that I grew up with a pool in my backyard, and spent countless summer days at the beach and on a sailboat.  I know infant, child and adult CPR and have even taken lifeguard training courses.  I certainly thought I was an attentive parent, especially when my kids are around the water, but that day taught me otherwise.

Just this past Memorial Day weekend a three-year-old girl silently drowned in a community pool on the Main Line in Philadelphia, with her parents only a few feet away.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention site says that fatal drowning remains the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children ages 1 to 14 years.

The Atlanta forecast over the next few days is currently “hot,” along with several days of “very hot,” so there will certainly be an increase in water activities.  Please be reminded to watch your children carefully at all times.  Remember to always listen for the noise of them playing in the water.  And beware the silence.