Don’t Let Them Drown

This subject hits very close to home with me, because our oldest daughter, Michelle, almost drown while she was less than 5-feet from me.

We were visiting my wife’s brother in Sacramento, so decided to take a dip in the swimming pool at his apartment. She hadn’t taken swimming lessons yet, so we stayed next to her while she held on to the coping.

We were talking and I turned to my left and saw Michelle no more than two feet from the edge and grabbed her quickly. Imprint the signs below, because they are real. I will never forget the look on her face…………….. and think about this for a moment, while she was in the throes of drowning, she didn’t make one sound.

The Instinctive Drowning Response—so named by Francesco A. Pia, Ph.D., is what people do to avoid actual or perceived suffocation in the water. And it does not look like most people expect. There is very little splashing, no waving, and no yelling or calls for help of any kind. To get an idea of just how quiet and undramatic from the surface drowning can be, consider this: It is the No. 2 cause of accidental death in children, ages 15 and under (just behind vehicle accidents)—of the approximately 750 children who will drown next year, about 375 of them will do so within 25 yards of a parent or other adult. In some of those drownings, the adult will actually watch the child do it, having no idea it is happening.* Drowning does not look like drowning—Dr. Pia, in an article in the Coast Guard’s On Scene magazine, described the Instinctive Drowning Response like this:

  1. “Except in rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. The respiratory system was designed for breathing. Speech is the secondary or overlaid function. Breathing must be fulfilled before speech occurs.
  2. Drowning people’s mouths alternately sink below and reappear above the surface of the water. The mouths of drowning people are not above the surface of the water long enough for them to exhale, inhale, and call out for help. When the drowning people’s mouths are above the surface, they exhale and inhale quickly as their mouths start to sink below the surface of the water.
  3. Drowning people cannot wave for help. Nature instinctively forces them to extend their arms laterally and press down on the water’s surface. Pressing down on the surface of the water permits drowning people to leverage their bodies so they can lift their mouths out of the water to breathe.
  4. Throughout the Instinctive Drowning Response, drowning people cannot voluntarily control their arm movements. Physiologically, drowning people who are struggling on the surface of the water cannot stop drowning and perform voluntary movements such as waving for help, moving toward a rescuer, or reaching out for a piece of rescue equipment.
  5. From beginning to end of the Instinctive Drowning Response people’s bodies remain upright in the water, with no evidence of a supporting kick. Unless rescued by a trained lifeguard, these drowning people can only struggle on the surface of the water from 20 to 60 seconds before submersion occurs.”

This doesn’t mean that a person that is yelling for help and thrashing isn’t in real trouble—they are experiencing aquatic distress. Not always present before the Instinctive Drowning Response, aquatic distress doesn’t last long—but unlike true drowning, these victims can still assist in their own rescue. They can grab lifelines, throw rings, etc.

Look for these other signs of drowning when persons are in the water:

  • Head low in the water, mouth at water level
  • Head tilted back with mouth open
  • Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus
  • Eyes closed
  • Hair over forehead or eyes
  • Not using legs—vertical
  • Hyperventilating or gasping
  • Trying to swim in a particular direction but not making headway
  • Trying to roll over on the back
  • Appear to be climbing an invisible ladder

So if a crew member falls overboard and everything looks OK—don’t be too sure. Sometimes the most common indication that someone is drowning is that they don’t look like they’re drowning. They may just look like they are treading water and looking up at the deck. One way to be sure? Ask them, “Are you all right?” If they can answer at all—they probably are. If they return a blank stare, you may have less than 30 seconds to get to them. And parents—children playing in the water make noise. When they get quiet, you get to them and find out why.

How Did We Survive Growing Up In The 50s And 60s?

First of all, we survived being born to and raised by mothers who smoked and/or drank while they carried us and then exposed us to second-hand smoke on an ongoing basis.

There were all sorts of things we dealt with that would be frowned on today, but somehow we survived.

  • We took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can, and didn’t get tested for diabetes.
  • Our baby cribs were covered with bright colored lead-based paints.
  • We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors, or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets, not to mention, the risks we took hitchhiking.
  • As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or airbags.
  • Riding in the back of a pick up on a warm day was always a special treat.
  • We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle.
  • We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this.
  • We ate cupcakes, white bread, and real butter and drank soda pop with sugar in it, but we weren’t overweight because WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING!
  • We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on.
  • No one was able to reach us all day, because cellphones weren’t invented yet,  And we were O.K.
  • We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.
  • We did not have Playstations, Nintendo’s, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 99 channels on cable, no videotape movies, no surround sound, no cell phones, no personal computers, no Internet or Internet chat rooms……….WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!
  • We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents.
  • We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.
  • We were given BB guns for our 10th birthdays, made up games with sticks and tennis balls, and although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes.
  • We rode bikes or walked to a friend’s house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just walked in and talked to them!
  • Little League baseball had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn’t make the team had to learn to deal with disappointment or practice to get better. Imagine that!!
  • The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!
  • And last but not least, we played on Jungle Gyms to our delight and somehow we able to survive.

The Amazing History Of Christmas

How much do you know about Christmas – about its origins and its many beloved traditions? Do you know where the idea of stocking-stuffers comes from? Or how lights found their way onto the Christmas tree? Or why we all have the jolly, red-suited, white-haired image of Santa Claus in our heads? In this video, historian William Federer explores the holiday’s rich and unique history.