Wednesday, August 29, 2012

In An Instant.

Last Thursday was the scariest day of my life.

I'm what I consider to be an attentive mother. Especially when it comes to the pool. I've read the infamous post about what drowning does and does not look like, and I know better than to be on the phone/texting/reading/doing ANYTHING else at the pool because I know how easily your life can be forever changed in an instant of inattention. And yet, despite all of this, I was not exempt from a close call at the pool....

Knowing that school would begin this week and that our days of lounging poolside in the afternoon were numbered, I packed up all three gals and headed to the pool to get in one last day of swimming and lunching. I had gotten plenty of sleep, was perfectly caffeinated and was on top of my game - something that a.) isn't often the case, and b.) I mention not to brag but only to note that accidents can happen to anyone and to stress all the more the importance of constant vigilance.

We arrived at the pool and immediately began our pre-water routine, including sunscreen, hydrating and grabbing towels. Then, I let the big girls jump in, while focusing on grabbing Ava's floatie for the final step in her pool prep. In the instant that I turned around to get her puddle jumper - the amazing device that turns my not-quite-swimmer into a would-be olympian - she ran off with the older girls and - to my horror - lept off the edge and into the water.

To most of us, when we imagine an accident in the water, we imagine all the adults in the area dropping everything instantly, peeling off their coverups and jumping in. We imagine the lifeguards blowing whistles and diving in, and - more to the point - immediate action by everyone and recognition that our child's life is in jeopardy, right?

Instead, the scene played out more along these lines:

-Ava jumps in (and, though I spent my fair share of time beating myself up about it, I will say with 100% certainty that I was watching her with vigilance and that is the only reason I even saw this happen and was able to take immediate action).
-I take off running (in my bikini, in case this wasn't nightmare-ish enough) full-speed, screaming at the top of my lungs, "She can't swim! She can't swim!" at the lifeguard sitting in his raised chair a mere FOOT away from where she entered the pool, and NOT. PAYING. ATTENTION.
-I dive in, watching with horror as her head repeatedly (and by this I likely mean twice, but I was so scared my mind has a hard time revisiting this memory) buoys back and forth between underwater and the surface, her first attempts at treading water.
-I pull her out of the water, assessing her breathing and if she has/had any water in her mouth and whether any lasting damage may have occurred.

I'd love to tell you that I carried her out to applause or was met on the steps by other adults willing to help or the lifeguard actually got his ass out of the chair, but much to my absolute shock, people were going about their lives. They were eating lunch. One mother was looking at me like I was out of my mind (I attribute this to the running and frantic yelling), and not in a sympathetic way. And the lifeguard? As for him, he had the audacity to ask me, "What just happened?" in a way that suggested he recognized how epicly he had just screwed up, to which I responded by kicking him in the balls (in my head only, sadly).

In short, nobody noticed.

Family upon family had gathered at the upscale country club pool, staffed with three lifeguards, and not a single person saw her fall into the water or took action to rescue her.

The point of this obviously emotional diatribe is not to point fingers at those who were there that day, but to drive home an important point: You alone can be counted on to protect your child around the water. It's easy to feel safe with lifeguards and with other parents nearby, but drowning? It's quiet. It's fast. And it's easy to overlook. Pay attention. Be present. Had I not been, and had I not seen Ava jump in, things may have ended differently. That last hoorah at the pool before school could have changed my life forever and been a day that I would revisit and regret the rest of my entire life.

I'm so infinitely grateful that I was paying attention. I still have my baby. Her life went on that day, as did mine (though I certainly did not emerge unchanged). There will never be enough prayer and enough thank yous and enough good deeds repaid to express how thankful I feel for that.

Ava is fine. In fact, five minutes later, I forced her (and moreso, myself) to get back into the pool because I did not want her to become afraid of the water. She was fine, and despite a panicked call to the pediatrician where I checked to see if the incident necessitated a trip to the emergency room (it did not, as only ten seconds at the most could have passed between when she lept, and when she was back on solid ground in my arms, despite it feeling as though hours had passed), it was like it had never happened at all.

But it had happened. And, despite the positive outcome, I am forever changed. I was shaken to the core in a way that is infrequent for my laid-back, easygoing self. And so I ask of you this: As you finish out these last days of the summer heat and pool season, I beg of you to pay the closest of attention. Your lives could change in an instant. Mine did.

26 comments:

  1. Wow girl. I am SO glad that Ava is OK!!!! I worry about the drowning thing all the time. Water scares the crap out of me for that reason. Thank you for sharing your horrific story. I can't believe the lifeguard OMG I would have had WORDS for him!!! And no one seemed to notice or care or attempt to show some sign of wanting to help in any way? Society failure. Ugh. Good job Momma!!!!

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    1. Thank you! I think the only reason I didn't lose it with the lifeguard was that I was so overwhelmed with gratitude and thankful she was ok, I was in shock! I definitely have some choice words stored up!

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  2. Wow that is so scary. I hope you mentioned this to the management at the Club. Thank God you'd been attentive to what was happening. Yikes!

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  3. I am so glad you were attentive! That is such a scary thing! I really hope you said something to the pool's management staff.

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    1. Thank you! I wrote an email after the fact, but in the moment, I was too in shock to act out towards the lifeguard.

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  4. Holy Crap! Seriously gave me goosebumps reading this. I am SOOO glad Ava is ok and that you were paying attention. It can happen in an instant as you proved with this story. I can't believe the Jack#$$ lifegaurd!!!! What the heck?!? How did he not notice with you screaming that she couldn't swim?! I would have had some choice words when he asked what happened. I probably wouldnt have had the self control to be polite. Water is so scary. We are registering for swim lessons in fall. I have a scary story about my neice (the reason I don't trust my mil anywhere with my kids). My MIL and FIL had Joshs nephew and neice for the summer and had taken them to a hotel. We had just been married so they were only 7 and 4 at the time. My MIL took the kids down to the hotel pool and they were "swimming", She sat in a chair reading (at the deep end? who knows to this day why she sat at the opposite end of the pool) But anyway...my neice somehow fell in and was fighting to get herself above water and my nephew is the one that rescued her!!! My MIL walked around the pool and got there as he was pulling her out onto the edge of the pool. Ya. How was she so unattentive that she didn't get to her until she was already out of the water?! My kids aren't allowed to go out of town without us and are not allowed to go anywhere near any body of water with her. It could have been a very bad situation. My poor nephew to this day refuses to go swimming and freaks out around water with the kids in the water. He gets severe anxiety watching them. Poor guy.

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    1. OMG - so sorry to hear about that! Yeah, I wouldn't let her go to the pool with anyone else, and I'm pretty laidback for the most part. Not anymore!!!

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  5. Yikes! So, so scary, but so thankful that it had a happy ending (despite what I'm sure are harrowing after-effects).

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  6. Wow! I can't even begin to imagine what that was like for you. I definitely, without a second thought, would have given it to the lifeguard the minute I knew my child was okay. And I don't think I would have been able to stay and continue swimming with the kids. Good for you for staying strong! Such a scary thing and I appreciate you telling your story. It's a good warning and something every parent should be aware of. I'm so glad Ava came out of it unharmed!

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    1. My first reaction was definitely to leave, but I didn't want the pool to become something she was afraid of and something that she viewed negatively, esp. since we spend so much time there in the long summers! I wish I would've handed it to the lifeguard, but I was completely in shock!

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  7. Oh my goodness, the pool scares me to death for this very reason. Like Tiffany, I have a hard time letting others watch Asher at the pool (we're on vacation this week so there's been a lot of pool time). Too many well-meaning adults in his life don't take this as seriously as we do and get distracted by other things. I'm so glad Ava is fine and still loves to swim! I agree with everyone else - I probably would have had some rash words for the lifeguard. That's just ridiculous. Great job, mama. I would have been scarred by an experience like this too, but you handled it great. Honestly, despite our best efforts, these things just happen sometimes.

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    1. Thanks, Emily! I definitely beat myself up about it, but realized once I talked it through with my husband that I definitely was being attentive and did the right thing. Still, though, it's terrifying!

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  8. WOW - so happy to hear everything is ok - a similar situation happened with my son 4 years ago - he jumped in not knowing the depth - I threw my camera on the ground and jumped in fully clothed to grab him - it took me a FULL DAY to calm down about it and it still makes me ill to think of that moment.

    You are SO RIGHT - we MUST be fully aware when at a pool - WE are responsible.

    Thanks for the reminder and excellent post.

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    1. Thank you so much! I'm so sorry to hear that you've been through a similar experience - it was truly the most terrifying thing to ever happen to me. I'm so glad your son was ok!

      And yes, a week later, and I'm still feeling shaken to the core. I think our pool days are over for this particular summer. We wanted to put Ava into swim lessons ASAP, but with the pools closing down, I think it'd be better for us to do it first thing in the spring when she'll have all summer to use and hone her skills.

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  9. My daughters best friends went under and never resurfaced in a very populated and upscale pool last summer and even though she was a good swimmer her Mom found her floating and purple. They were able to resuscitate her and she recovered fine at home, but it was a very scary ordeal and so sad to think that none of the over 100 people at that pool even noticed. I'm so glad your daughter is okay.

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words! That is terrifying and horrific that happened to your daughter's best friend, but I'm so relieved to hear she survived. It seems like these things are more common than you'd think, which is scary!

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  10. Wow...I'm so glad it all turned out okay. This happened to my daughter...twice. Fortunately, both times the lifeguards did respond. The second time before my head even registered what had happened (literally, in the time it takes to take a breath). What was weird was I didn't even know about the first time because it happened at camp. I only found out about it when my daughter ... two years later ... was watching a commercial that showed a baby underwater and she started to have what I can only describe as a PTSD reaction. It was only then I realized why she was so afraid to take swimming lessons...

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    1. OMG - I cannot even imagine how awful it must have been to watch her go through that in response to the commercial. How awful! I'm just so glad for you that she was ok, and that the lifeguards did their job!

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  11. I hope you reported that life guard. And I would have kicked him in the ball for real! Good grief. What an idiot!! Thank you for reaffirming why I have had my kids in swim class since they were 4 months old. Some days I look at the expense and wonder if it's worth it, but it is. It is NEVER too young to learn water safety. My mom knew a kid that drowned when she was little. It's been hammered into me that water safety is of the utmost importance. Thank you especially for the line that parents should not be on their phones or distracted by other things when their kids are in the pool. Even if the lifeguards are amazing there are always more kids than lifeguards. Extra eyes are ever important!

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    1. I agree - the more eyes on them, the better, especially ours! It was a really big eye-opener for me.

      We put Ava into swim lessons at six months old, but we've been waiting to do immersion lessons until this coming summer. Had this incident occurred earlier in the summer, though, we would have put her in them immediately, given her obvious confidence to where she'd jump in without a second thought. Unfortunately with all the pools closing down, I worry that she wouldn't really have any time to use her skills and get comfortable. That'll definitely be the first thing we do in the spring!

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  12. So scary! I'm glad she's okay. It seems most of the time that the lifeguards are lackadasical -- underpaid and bored because most of the time, nothing DOES happen. But I have heard 2 stories recently: one about a 5 year old who died in the PICU after drowning even though he was surrounded by tons of adults who all though someone else was watching him, and another friend of mine told me about how she was standing right next to a kid who was drowning and didn't even know. He had gotten trapped under a mess of floatie toys ON THE STAIRS. Luckily the lifeguard say him go under and saved him.

    It's all so scary, and I'm so glad you were paying attention. Unfortunately we can't leave our little ones in the hands of lifeguards.

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  13. I'm so happy to hear Ava is well and that you were paying attention!

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  14. Wow! Briana, I am so grateful that your beautiful baby girl is safe! Thank you for sharing your story. It is a good reminder. We cannot count on others to notice. In fact, many child drownings happen at parties with a lot of parents in the vicinity because people let down their guards in groups. The most upsetting part, however, is the role of the lifeguard here. That is their job and to not even notice your cries much less her slipping into the pool is very upsetting.

    On a personal note, my son nearly choked in front of me on a teething biscuit. I remember how it seemed like the whole event took minutes when, of course, it had to be seconds or he wouldn't be here with me now. I, too, was forever changed. But there is good news here, as well. You did what you needed to do. You were there for your daughter and she is here with you today.

    HUGS!!!

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