Tuesday, June 30, 2009

When Pool Safety Hits Close To Home

On Sunday night, we had our swim team banquet. When one particular name was called, everyone screamed at the top of their lungs and the clapping went on for quite some time. The little boy whose name had been called made his way to the front to accept his trophy, still wearing his hospital armband. His dad watched as his eyes filled with tears. His mom just bowed her head and sobbed openly. All around the room people wiped tears away even as they clapped. You see, just two days before, that little boy was found at the bottom of the pool, not breathing.

Thanks to the quick thinking of the people who were there-- our lifeguard and some of our neighbors-- he was given CPR and by the time the paramedics arrived, he was alert and stabilized. He spent two nights in the hospital and arrived home on Sunday afternoon-- just in time for the swim team banquet. And you know what he wanted to do as soon as the banquet was over?

Go swimming!

His father looked at him and then over at me and said, "I know he's ready but I just don't know that I am!"

I watched on Sunday night as that little boy jumped into the pool in complete and total oblivion. He twirled and splashed and smiled, not realizing what a miracle he is. Not noticing the way his parents watched him like a hawk. Unaware that, because of him, we all watched our kids closer than ever and hugged them a little bit tighter as we wrapped towels around them. His brush with death was a wake up call for all of us. As one lady said to me, "It's sad that it took this to make us all take it up a notch. Because we should have been doing this all along."

But the truth is, we all suffered from a sense of false security. They have floaties on their arms. There are lifeguards posted. They know how to swim. They're on swim team, for crying out loud! And yet, for reasons that are still unclear, this little boy sank to the bottom of the pool in a moment.

If you take your kids to the pool regularly, let this be a wakeup call that extends beyond just our little neighborhood. Watch your kids. Talk to your friends while you sit on the side, but do it with your eyes trained on your children. Don't be lulled into that false sense of security that things will be okay. Because they aren't always guaranteed to be. No matter how great a swimmer your child might be-- no matter how much experience they have around water-- stuff can happen. Water is fun and great and part of the summer experience, but we need to respect it. I can promise you the parents at our pool will be doing a much better job of that in the months to come.

"Did you see how everyone clapped and cheered for Zeb tonight?" my 9yo daughter asked me after the banquet.

"Yep. It was really neat. A lot of people are really happy he's okay. A lot of people had tears in their eyes seeing him get that trophy."

She looked at me and smiled. "Mom," she said, "I had tears in my eyes."

I smiled back at her and said, "I did too honey. I did too."
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teri said...

Thanks, Marybeth. Such a good reminder as we all grow comfortable with our childrens' swimming abilities. Hope to see you soon!

arabelle marie said...

Thanks for the reminder Marybeth. I took my five small kids to the lake (7 yrs to 8 mos) yesterday. Normally we all sit at the shore and play on the water's edge and in the sand. But now my older two are getting quite comfortable in the water. I was feeling that maybe we should go because it was a little too much for me to handle while keeping everyone safe. As we were leaving, a couple of men approached me and started asking me questions about the depth of the lake, etc. I was a little puzzled, but I love to engage people. They proceeded to tell me that two days before their fifteen-year-old nephew drowned in the lake. It hit me hard.

It is easy to be cavalier towards water safety. I grew up swimming and want my kids to have the same love of the water. But I knew that it wasn't safe for them with only me watching all five.

Oh Dear said...

I am praying for the family of 4 year old Patrick who drowned in a lake at a park his family was visiting for a birthday party. Thanks for yet another reminder not to socialize at the pool but to supervise!

Caroline said...

I am so glad you posted this. There are so many myths about drowning. In reality, it's very quick and very quiet. i was a lifeguard in college and rescued several kids who slipped quietly to the bottom of the pool (fortunately while I was watching) - one child was not even in water over her head, she could have simply stood up.

My daughter fell into the pool during swim lessons when she was 3, and none of the lifeguards noticed. My husband pulled her out of the water. He was very shaken at how quietly it happened - no struggle, no splashing, no screaming.

This was so appropriate as we go into the holiday weekend. My father was a Game Warden, and he spent virtually every holiday weekend of my childhood dragging for bodies of drowning victims. I hope it inspires people to be a little more cautious.