We live in the land of sunshine. Backyard pools abound. The sounds of splashing, laughter and music fills the air, along with wafts of smoke from barbecues and grills.
Kids playing in the waves!
Sounds like paradise, right?
Is it wonderful …. until tragedy strikes and then it is life changing, forever.
I read a report last night of another fatal drowning. Four year old Travis Stratton was in the care of his grandparents when he went missing, he was found up the block, dead – in a neighbors pool. The pool was fenced with a locked gate.
Unfortunately, we hear of stories like this all to often.
Immediately, my thoughts went back to my grandson Michael and how we dodged a bullet. Michael is the youngest of 6 kids and he is all boy! He loves critters, he loves adventure, he is fearless. When Michael was about 3 they moved into a house with a huge backyard, with forts and fun places to hide and play and a well worn fence. The house next door had a lovely pool and a couple of friendly dogs that would run up the hill and often push through the fence to visit with the kids.
It was a warm summer evening and Michael had been told numerous times to put his pet lizard ‘Little Fella’ back in his cage and get ready for a bath. As it started to get dark my daughter said, “Where’s Michael?” He was no where to be seen. The last time she had seen him he was in the backyard. None of the other kids knew where he was. A search of the yard and house ensued, no Michael. Panic started to set in.
“OMG – check the pool next door!” From the fence it was hard to see, nobody was home next door and the lights were off. They called the police.
The police searched the neighbor’s yard and pool, no Michael. They searched the house, no Michael. Then the police called for air support. A helicopter circled the neighborhood, illuminating each and every backyard and pool, no Michael. The police fanned out across the backyard, searching and calling the dogs, “Find Michael”
My son in law took off running around the neighborhood, screaming his name. Fear filled the air. The church up the street had just let out and the congregation willingly spread out throughout the neighborhood in search of Michael. Police cars drove up and down the streets announcing that they were in search of a missing 3 year old boy.
My daughter sank to the ground on the driveway in front of the house, in tears and shaking with fear. A police officer gently helped her inside and started questioning her again, “When do you remember seeing him last?”
She sobbed, “I just told him to put his lizard ‘Little Fella’ away and get ready for a bath…..” The police officer went to Michael’s bedroom again and checked Little Fella’s cage. Little Fella was missing, the cage was empty. Again, he searched the bedroom looking for clues.
As we sat huddled together in the living room the police officer walked into the room and said, “Look what I found.” There he stood, holding a sleeping boy with ‘Little Fella’ gently cupped in his hands, sleeping on Michael’s chest.
Michael had taken ‘Little Fella’ climbed up onto the top bunk of his brother’s bed, covered himself in layers and layers of blankets and fallen asleep with his ‘friend’.
According to the CDC From 2005-2009, there were an average of 3,533 fatal unintentional drownings (non-boating related) annually in the United States — about ten deaths per day. Children ages 1 to 4 have the highest drowning rates. In 2009, among children 1 to 4 years old who died from an unintentional injury, more than 30% died from drowning. These startling figures do not take into account near fatal drownings which are often almost as bad as death.
As a parent, grandparent and pool owner, this is my worst nightmare. Before we built our first pool I had visions of parties and kids swimming and diving. Laughter and splashing.
The reality is very different and is why I have gray hair!
Someone must be on guard all the time. Even when the pool is not ‘in use’ kids are attracted to water. A bouncing ball goes into the pool, the child leans over to retrieve the ball and in they go! It is even worse when the pool is in use! You cannot swim and watch the kids too. We had to make a rule that when the pool was in use, an adult had to be on the deck watching. There was one Saturday that I had to go in after a struggling child 3 times! Parents would send their kids to swim saying, “Oh, yeah – she is pretty good in the water.” When in reality they sank like a rock!
A couple of years ago I was at a child’s birthday party, everyone was sitting around the backyard, eating and drinking. The kids were running and playing – nobody was swimming. A little girl was riding a tricycle around and around the pool. From the other side of the yard I could see what was about to happen. Like in slow motion, the back wheel of the tricycle went over the edge of the pool and the little girl and tricycle tipped into the pool. I literally ran out of my shoes as I dashed across the yard – she sank to the bottom like a brick. Her grandma was screaming but not moving. She was a lucky one. Scared and sobbing she was plucked from the pool. It could have been tragic.
Last December we were at a party, mostly adults and just a couple of kids. There was a pool but the pool lights were off, obviously nobody was swimming, we were all huddled under the outdoor heaters. I looked over and saw my adult nephew sitting away from the crowd, off by himself. I made eye contact with him and he waved me over. I went to see what was up and he said he was watching a little girl by the pool. Sure enough, in the distant darkness, a little girl was exploring the pool. My nephew had tried to get the parents attention but they were busy drinking and visiting and had not even noticed that their daughter had wandered away.
- Teach your kids WATER SAFETY – not just pools but even shallow ponds pose a risk. Teach them not to fear water but to have a healthy respect for water.
- Teach your kids to swim!
- Learn CPR – Seconds count. If in the event of a near drowning the difference between waiting for emergency services and starting CPR can make the difference between life and death or brain damage or none.
- Poolside: Have a basket or container of some sort to place phones & keys in. I learned the hard way that jumping into a pool with a pocket full of keys and a phone is not only costly it renders your phone unusable. You must have a working phone poolside in case of an emergency.
- Don’t let swimmers hyperventilate before swimming underwater or try to hold their breath for long periods of time. This can cause them to pass out (sometimes called “shallow water blackout”) and drown.
- Clear the pool and deck of toys. Remove floats, balls and other toys from the pool and surrounding area immediately after use so children are not tempted to enter the pool area unsupervised.
I cannot imagine loosing one of my little eaters!
Be safe and have fun!