My Daughter Got Caught In A Pool Drain

by Sara Gibney
Originally Published: 
A two-par collage of Sara Gibney's daughter in a hospital bed sleeping and her in an elevator smilin...
Courtesy of Sara Gibney

I’m sitting across from Lucy where she’s asleep in a hospital bed in the pediatric wing. I’m still wearing the jeans that smell of her vomit and chlorinated pool water. It’s been nearly 12 hours since she almost drowned in less than two feet of water.

It’s still inconceivable to us that we could have lost her to a freak accident.

We had friends over for dinner. The kids ate and wanted to play in the hot tub while the adults ate on the deck where we could keep an eye and ear on them. We had to remind them a couple times to stay away from the intake filter. The men went inside to do the dishes. We ladies remained on the deck for awhile, talking and listening to the kids in the water. We went inside to check on the guys.

A few minutes later, Jay popped outside to check on the kids again; we were about to get them out of the water for the evening. It’s only an eight-foot pool, filled with less than two feet of water. The four kids in it are between 9 and 12 years of age and all are capable swimmers. We never imagined an accident like this actually occurring … I suppose we were being naive or stupid, but it still happened whether we thought it could or not.

Courtesy of Sara Gibney

Approximately three minutes after Jay had last checked on them, one of the kids ran to get us and frantically explained that Lucy’s hair had been caught in the filter and they couldn’t get her out. Her head was still under the water and she wasn’t moving.

Jay yanked her out of the water by her hair, her tall but tiny body unresponsive, blue, and grey. He attempted to thwack her back a couple times before we both knew it was way worse than that. We put her on her back and started chest compressions until she started vomiting water and took a breath. I held her mouth open while her body forced out the pool water. She finally opened her eyes and spoke. She apologized to us, as if it had been her fault. Her brother hurdled her and sobbed and hugged her until the first responders arrived. They were swift, efficient, careful, and caring, and got us to the hospital where she was checked in to be observed overnight for secondary drowning.

Courtesy of Sara Gibney

I’m writing this to share with any parent, friend, neighbor, or family member to children to remind them that it only takes a couple of minutes, or less, for something so horrifically traumatic to occur. If the chain of events didn’t happen the way they had or as quickly … if Jay or I had panicked and not remained focused on getting her breathing again … if our friends hadn’t have been there to call 911 and stay with Jude … if, if, if …

I’m so thankful that Jay and I have past CPR training and we remembered what to do when we needed to, but we’re still going to get re-certified and have the kids CPR certified now. Please consider doing so if you’re not already. I have never expected to have to use it, even when I was a lifeguard a lifetime ago. You never know when you may need this training.

Please remember that pool filters really are that strong, and really can — and will — pull a child to the bottom if their hair gets caught in it. This is not an old wives’ tale or an urban legend. Three boys tried to pull Lucy out of it, but were unable to break her free from the vacuum effect it had created.

Courtesy of Sara Gibney

Please remember that even if your children are older, big kids … even if they are swimmers, even if they are only in 19 inches of water, accidents can happen in just a few minutes.

Please remember that even if a person avoids primary drowning, they should always go to the hospital to be observed for secondary drowning symptoms.

We took these things for granted or overlooked them just enough for our dear daughter to nearly drown in less than a couple of minutes. I only hope that someone will read this or share this with someone who can benefit from our story.

Lucy was discharged from the hospital this afternoon. Besides a sore throat from the excessive vomiting and a sore chest from the compressions, she was absolutely 100% lucky and will be feeling better after some rest and lots of cuddles.

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