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© Gail Underwood Parker

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Soapbox: Drowning Doesn't Look Like Drowning

I ran across this amazing article by Mario Vittone that includes CRITICAL information for every parent who takes or allows their children [young or old or grown] to water.  Everyone has a mental image of a person drowning but the problem is that the image is usually created from a TV or movie depiction. A mixture a chaos and commotion like that seen in "Jaws" is far from the common reality of drowning.

The full article is on the web and is going around a lot.  It was originally written for submission to a sailing magazine, therefore the intro about a skipper etc.  I understand that it is going to be in a summer issue of Reader's Digest in modified form so look for it there, clip it out, and save it.  I plan to reread it every summer to keep it in the front of my mind.

He quotes Dr. Francesco A. Pia's research on drowning that describes the body's "Instinctive Drowning Response." He has found that 1: our mental image of drowning may be accurate if a person is in "aquatic distress," but that 2: when they are imminently in danger of drowning and the body's self-preservation kicks in automatic reactions that may hide the danger to a casual observer. This presents a huge danger.

The key points are that [unlike our screen image of drowning]
       • Drowning victims CANNOT call out for help.
       • Drowning victims CANNOT wave or intentionally signal their distress.
He goes on to explain exactly why this is true, and what you are likely to see for behaviors instead of the expected cries or signals for help. Read a detailed description of this written for search and rescue personnel in this second article on page 14 of ON SCENE, The Journal of the Coast Guard Search and Rescue.

The first article also lists these other things that can be danger signs of drowning:

  • 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.
Please, please, puh-lease,  read one or both of the full articles!  It could save a life and prevent a tragedy.
Be safe!

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