Tag Archives: personal-experience

Drowning does NOT look like drowning

In many child drownings, adults are nearby but have no idea the victim is dying. Here’s what to look for.

Children playing in the water make noise. When they get quiet, you get to them and find out why….”

Please, please follow this link to Sunnysleevez blog post on what to look for re drowning. In that post you will learn about the Instinctive Drowning Response, and what it looks like from the perspective of someone outside the pool looking in. This is vital where small children are concerned. But it also applies to adults.

I’m Australian, but I was born in Hungary, and when I was twenty-one I traveled to Hungary to visit my relatives. I was there during summer, and my aunt took me to a huge swimming pool complex called the Palatinus.

Picture a stinking hot day with the sun beating down on hundreds of people, all swimming and playing in the  open air swimming pools. Now picture a long rectangular pool with the shallow ends being along the sides instead of at one end the way ours are.

I assumed the whole pool would be shallow. So I waded in from the side and dove underwater. I swam a few metres to the middle, and put my feet down…

I don’t know whether I exhaled because I expected my feet to touch bottom and my head to be above water, or from surprise. But my feet kept going down and my lungs were virtually empty.

My feet never touched bottom so I could kick my way up. The deep end was straight down the middle. I could see the surface, but I just couldn’t seem to reach it.

I remember this terrible feeling of disbelief when I realised I was going down for the third time. That meant I was drowning didn’t it? But how could I drown in a pool full of people? Yet that is exactly what was happening.  I suddenly knew I was drowning.

Until that moment I’d been fairly calm, just working to reach the surface, and maybe feeling a little silly. And then the panic set in.

According to the research, they don’t know what people are doing with their feet while they go through this drowning response, but I can tell you. You kick madly. Not consciously perhaps, but you do kick. I know because I kicked someone. Hard.

That kick is the only reason I’m here to write this post. It got me to the surface with enough force to let me go horizontal and start swimming. I made it out to the edge of the pool on my own. And not one of those happy, laughing, splashing people knew I was drowning.

My near-drowning happened because :

a) I did not know the place in which I was swimming, and didn’t realise I was way out of my depth, and

b) I had learned bad habits – i.e. exhaling too soon.

Little kids are always out of their depth, and they probably have as many bad habits as I did. Put those two things together and you can have a dead child in 60 seconds. And you won’t know a thing until someone notices that child floating quietly below the surface.

I was so very lucky. Too many kids aren’t.



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