Drowning: Learn the Signs

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Note: I said last time that I'd share here about how literature helps us talk with our children about race. But when this important information about drowning came to my attention, I decided to share it now before swimming season is over. Look for some thoughts about literature and race next time!

When my youngest, Justin, was a young toddler, I sat with him on the first shallow step of a pool. I looked away for a moment. When I looked back, he was upright under the water, just looking up at me. No flailing, no screaming, nothing.

My heart stopped and I grabbed him out. If I had not looked back when I did, he would have drowned. Praise the Lord he was OK.

As if one terrifying incident like this isn't enough, a similar thing happened a few years ago. I was relaxing with all my kids and grandkids at a pool. The adults outnumbered the children and we were all "paying attention" to the kids swimming. I was even in the water myself. Yet as I happened to look over, there was one of Amy's young boys silently submerged, upright underwater. Again, he was not flailing his arms, calling for help, or even looking panicked. I raced, running through the water, sure I wouldn't get there in time. I grabbed him up and all was well. But again, if I hadn't noticed when I did, he might have drowned.

In both of these situations, I had a definite feeling that something was wrong, but it was not at all obvious that these children were in the process of drowning.

The silent signs of drowning

You may have already seen the article circling the internet right now about the real signs of drowning. But in case you haven't, I wanted to point it out here. Click to read "Drowning doesn't look like drowning."

As the article says, drowning in real life does not look like it does on TV. Victims rarely flail or yell for help. Once they start drowning, they go into an instinctive response they cannot control. It is silent, calm and looks harmless.

As the article shares, victims are usually upright with their mouth hovering around water-level. They cannot call for help, wave or reach for a rescue device. Their eyes look glassy and unable to focus.

Click to watch a short video of a young boy in the midst of this "instinctive drowning response" before he is rescued by a lifeguard. (I apologize that you'll have to watch a short ad before the actual video starts.)

What to do if you see these signs

If you ever wonder if someone is drowning, simply call out to them "Are you OK?" If they can answer you, they're fine. If you get a glassy stare in response, you may have less than 30 seconds to reach them before they drown.

If we're not aware of the fact that this isn't what it looks like on TV, we're not prepared. Praise Jesus that neither of my situations ended up as a tragedy, but I am just shocked at how it all happened so fast, while adult supervision was right there!

So please, learn the signs of drowning, and pay attention carefully to children around water. If they get quiet, recognize that there is a problem.

I share this not to panic you, but pray that a little education can go a long way here. As a person "in the know," you just might be the one to save a life some day.


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