A viral essay is reminding parents that drowning accidents can happen to anyone
When I was a kid, I was swimming with my uncle, and he turned around for a second to talk to my aunt. In that second, I floated backwards just a little bit to where I could no longer touch the bottom of the pool, and immediately started drowning — about a foot behind my uncle’s turned back. Luckily, my aunt saw me within seconds and I was fine, but drowning happens quickly and quietly, and that’s why one mom has issued a warning to other parents after she almost lost her toddler in a very similar accident in a hot tub.
In a now-viral blog post, mom Rachel Barton Lister says she was at the pool with her daughter when the unthinkable happened. She was packing her two-year-old up to leave after a busy day of swimming, but the little girl asked to go into the hot tub again. Lister said no, and sat the child down on a deck chair beside her so she could finish packing their things. Silently, the child slipped away, got into the hot tub, and nearly drowned.
“My daughter was face-down in the center of the hot tub … and I had no idea how long she’d been in there,” writes Lister. “My husband quickly passed off the baby and began frantically working on my daughter. She wasn’t breathing… My husband did a Heimlich maneuver of sorts and pushed some water out of her tiny body. Reflexively, she began to vomit. Finally, she coughed and took a breath.”
Lister’s daughter was taken to the hospital, where doctors told her parents her oxygen levels were in the 80s — which is considered “very low” — and that she “likely had another 30 seconds before her heart stopped” when she was found. She’s okay now, but her mom says she wants other parents to know what drowning really looks like and how incredibly fast it can happen.
Writes Lister, “My daughter made no noise. She couldn’t. She didn’t splash. She didn’t yell for help. We were all standing ten feet away while she drowned… Drowning can happen in seconds. It’s quick and it’s quiet and it can happen to your child.”
Lister’s warning comes as we’re entering the hottest summer months, and it’s an important one because most of us tend to think we’re too vigilant or too careful to ever end up in a similar situation. The reality is, an average of three children die every single day as a result of drowning, according to the CDC. Drowning kills more children ages one to four than anything else except birth defects.
If there’s one thing we should take away from Lister’s story, it’s that drowning can happen at any time, to anyone, and there very likely won’t be any warnings, signs of distress, or even noise. We should all closely supervise our kids at all times when they’re in the water, but the CDC also recommends getting trained in CPR, fencing off any backyard swimming areas, and making sure our kids know the basics of how to float and move through the water before they’re allowed to get in.
As scary it is to think about, drowning accidents can happen to us. But rather than being frightened by that fact, let’s instead allow it to empower us to keep our kids as safe as possible this summer.