Episode 3

Navigating Neva! Neva Nicole here. 

Today’s Episode is: Episode three. 

Today, I’m going to share with you what happens when we drown, and that's because I want no drownings, I want a zero drowning summer. I want you to be safe; I want each child to be safe.

I’m an aquatic professional with 20 plus years experience in my industry; check out my bio.

From sitting on the stands and lifeguarding to certifying guards, and running a pool I have seen a lot; I’m here to share with you my opinions, and resources that are already out there.

I want you to stay safe, and enjoy this summer. 

Listen up and have a happy and healthy summer. Always remember: your safety comes first

I’m going to share with you my drowning story: when I was three years old, my grandparents had a pool; when we went swimming, we always had to have an adult with us. I remember this rule well. There were lots of times I wanted to go swimming, and there was not an adult that was able to go outside with me. So, I didn't get to go on this particular day; I was not going swimming.

There’s a statistic for you guys: the NDPA says - almost 70 percent of drownings happen during non-swimming times. I would have fallen into this category. My cousins were older than me, and they were going outside to light smoke bombs. I wanted to go. I was told I could go outside, but I wasn't to leave the deck. My cousins were on the grass; they were down below the pool, below the deck. So I went outside excited to see these smoke bombs my cousins were going to light.

I drag my little red table out-- it was a children's plastic table from the 80s; it was metal covered in red plastic. I drug it as far as I could, then I climbed on top to have a better view, and watched my cousins.

At some point, pretty sure it was pretty quick, I fell into the pool. One of the four legs of the table was on the lip of the pool. I was fully clothed, not prepared to go swimming; I went down and down and down. The little red table tumbled into, and it came down with me, but it never touched me. I just saw it up above. I remember looking up as I sunk to the bottom. The pool was about seven feet deep; for me it was a slow sink to the bottom.

I remember seeing rays of sunshine through the water, and I thought it was so pretty. Then I remember seeing the table; I don't remember being afraid. I don't remember feeling the water burn my nose like we sometimes do when we get water up our nose.

Then I remember seeing the pool from above the ground, and my aunt running to the pool from the patio. I’m fine; I was fine. My aunt had been outside the whole time; she was on the porch she saw me fall and got to me.

Although my memory does not have this event as a traumatic event, I know it wasn't good. My Mom tried to put me into swimming lessons, and I was terrified; I hated it.

Swimming lessons were a ‘no-go’ for me at this age. We didn't go to swim lessons; I do remember later during my childhood-- I would go underwater with my mask and go down as deep as I could, so I could look up, and see the sunshine rays through the water.

To this day, it's still peaceful to me.

So let's recap. When we talked about the layers of protection, you guys remember them: supervise, have barriers, learn to swim, and what to do in an emergency.

I was supervised. The first layer of protection is to supervise-- never let your children outside, if you're not going to have someone watching them.

I was outside; my aunt was with me, lucky for me. My family knew this rule, and there was an adult outside anytime children were outside. 

Since we had a pool in the backyard, it would probably be another statistic -- had we not had this rule in place. On our water safety tips: we were to supervise our children when they're around water, know CPR, and know how to respond. That’s what happened on this day.

Today's lesson is: drowning and how it happens

The American red cross breaks it down in their lifeguard training: when you take a lifeguarding course, and that's what we're going to discuss. There are other organizations that talk about the drowning process too: the drowning process starts when water enters the airway which results in larger spasms. A sudden closure of the larynx or windpipe when air can't reach the lungs, then the person cannot breathe. But the person may swallow water with no air entering the airway, no oxygen reaches the bloodstream; with no oxygen in the bloodstream, the levels of oxygen start dropping.

The spasms may subside; so now, the person can gasp for air, but they're going to be underwater. So, they're going to inhale water; water gets into the lungs.

This wasn't taught when I got certified in 1999. What was taught is what comes next. 

Due to oxygen dropping in the blood that is being pumped, it isn't taking in any more oxygen. So the vital organs aren't getting any oxygen--this can occur in as little as three minutes. 

When I was trained it was two minutes, but as science continues we learn more.

This is why I was so worried about knowing how to do CPR, and perform it correctly.

I sat in the break room reading the lifeguard manual for CPR, because I wanted to make sure I knew it. I knew it; I didn't forget it. Brain damage can occur in as little as four to six minutes -- this was the data we received back then as well.

So, it is vital that I did not get distracted while lifeguarding. 

I had three minutes to see the person: three minutes to get to them and remove them from the water, and give them life-saving skills. If I wanted a good turnout, I didn't want my swimmer to be brain damaged because I wasn't paying attention. 

I like to say: no drownings and drowning is preventable.

It's important to know what happens when a drowning occurs, so that you understand the urgency in responding. So that we know why stepping inside the house for a second just to grab a towel could be a life-threatening situation, or going in to answer the door could result in a life altering event.

Years ago, I used a video when I would do presentations for aquatic safety talks for the camp counselors.

This video surveillance had footage from a facility in another country. When you watch the video, you see a child who appears to be playing or bobbing. The child doesn't look to be in distress: he continues to move about the water until he stops moving. Then he goes under a waterfall; the water pushes him underwater. He quickly bob or floats back up; he's in the shallow water. It’s shallow for us, it's not shallow for him, it's somewhere between three and a half and four feet.

In this lazy river, as we sat there watching the video, all the camp counselors were stunned. They were appalled: they were shocked like why was this occurring and nothing's happening.

People were there, people were around and people didn't notice the idea that we have of a drowning person calling for help isn't really what happens. I mean, some do; some can call for help. If I’m in the water, and I get a leg cramp, I could call out for help. If I’m caught in a current and it's pulling me but usually -- when drownings occur - they're silent. There's active drowning and thus the person can't call out for help. 

You have to know what to look for, so back to the classroom. When the room full of eager camp counselors watched this video, we knew what we were looking for from the beginning of the video. Most of the time, a distressed swimmer that becomes an active drowning person, that without help will soon become a floating person or maybe a sinking person. It may be a non-fatal drowning, if the person gets the care they need promptly, or it may become a fatal drowning; only time will tell. 

When in doubt, help. A lot of little children look like they're playing, when really they're struggling. 

This brings me to my next story: as I mentioned in the first episode, I saved my son after he had swimming lessons. We're going to talk more about that story in episode five, but today I want to tell you about another time: I had to save my son, he had had swimming lessons the summer before, and this was the spring. After so, it was actually our first time back at the water. We were at a birthday party; it was a pool party. He was three, almost four. He hadn't been to the pool since last summer, but I’m a swim instructor and I’m a lifeguard and this wasn't a public pool. It was a home pool and a backyard, and I was holding his little brother. He got into the water; we didn't put a life jacket on him because he had swimming lessons; he got in the pool, touched the bottom, then looked up at me in panic with fear in his eyes. He was jumping, bobbing backwards, not swimming: he was afraid. He was panicked, and the fear I could see in his eyes. I realized he was in distress, and laid down on the deck extending my arm out. As we discussed in episode two, ‘when the whale's tales lesson’ says: reach your throw, don't go. I was reaching, I wasn't wearing swimming a tire; I laid on the deck and I outstretched my arm, and I felt his little fingertips. Then I didn't; he had jumped or bob backwards some more- he was traveling backwards at superhuman speed. I went from a horizontal position on the deck to a vertical position in the water faster than the speed of light to grab my son; he never went under water, he never swallowed water, but this event happened and it happened fast so fast and it is still imprinted in my mind to this day. Probably because, somewhere in my mind I knew that I had this experience one time when I was little; the day I sunk to the bottom of the pool. And I had the knowledge and I had the ability, and I was able to quickly respond; if not he would have been another statistic. 

The leading cause for children ages one to four--unintentional drowning. It is and it has been; it continues to be, but this wasn't his story. I’m sure you listened and wondered what happened to his brother who I was holding, and to this day, I don't remember. He was old enough to sit; he was old enough to stand, and I assume in that moment of panic and fear, I set him down and then reached out to save his brother, or maybe; I passed him off to someone else who held him, but he didn't fall in the water. So he must have been somewhere safe; when things occur sometimes they occur so quickly you act without thinking and this was one of those times. I’ll put a poll on my Instagram page and I want you guys to share with me, if you've ever been in a situation where you were saved, or if you've ever been in a situation where you saved someone. I’m interested to know what the numbers are out there.

There's a lot of data; I’m sure that's never been recorded. There's a lot of times- when things happen and whenever follow it up with the necessary care, and then they're just never reported. 

Next, I want to share with you a story from a friend — this ties into our next episode when we talk about CPR, and how important it is in the drowning process. This also goes back to our previous episode, when we talked about watching our children when they're outside; even if they aren't intending to go swimming.

In the first episode we talked about, layers of protection: we must look out for water, waters everywhere — it's in your yard and it's in your home. 

Here's our story: one day I was teaching CPR, and I had a couple in class. In the Red Cross videos, they like to do a good job of putting little intros in there, and they pull on your heartstrings. If you can relate to the story, this couple was bothered. And I could tell, but I didn't say anything. I just went ahead; taught the class. At the end of the class, this woman said we took this class because last fall we had an incident with our daughter. Their daughter fell into a bucket in their backyard; the bucket was full of water and she fell in. So now, when you see those 10-pound buckets, and there's a sticker where it says: watch out someone could fall in. It happens. Children and babies can fall into the bucket. And we know-- you only need a few inches of water to drown, not the entire bucket. So, one day, it wasn't summer; this momma walks outside to the fence in her yard and is talking to her neighbor. Her baby toddles out and finds its way to this bucket. She turns around and she sees that her baby's in the bucket. She grabs her and performs CPR as she remembers .9-1-1 is called, 9-1-1 is dispatched, 9-1-1 arrives on scene and the baby's breathing, the baby's crying and the baby appears just fine.

But moments ago, the baby was not fine. So it's important to be on guard: watch out for water in your yard, watch for buckets, and watch for pools of water, watch for flood water; watch for a baby pool that's filled up with water.

During the rain: watch out for a ditch. Just rain water pooling in the yard after heavy rains creates an area, where someone can drown; because it only takes inches.

Be prepared, know CPR and be ready to use it. Do not hesitate to call 9-1-1 and have a phone nearby.

Just a reminder: as I mentioned in last week's episode that after any water event like this, we do need to follow up. With emergency care you need to tell your pediatrician, you need to go to the hospital or maybe urgent care. If it's open, you want to make sure that there's no water left in their lungs ; you need to make sure they are safe.

Let’s look back at that drowning process again: first there's panic. I saw panic and fear in my son's eyes. If no one intervenes, it continues, and then water gets into the airway which results in larger spasms. The air cannot reach the lungs. This is where that mama found her baby. The water was in the baby's lungs. If nothing happens, the process continues. If the water is in the person, it decreases buoyancy, so that there's no movement and they'll start to sink.

Cardiac or respiratory arrest occurs, and in four to six minutes brain damage is occurring.

If you have anything you want to share with me and request you can reach me at navigatingneva@gmail.com

Remember! No drowning. I want a zero drowning summer. Stay safe and enjoy the Summer. Until next time, this is Neva Nicole with Navigating Neva