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What drowning really looks like


Photo by Li Yang on Unsplash

We were at a backyard BBQ. It was end of August, hot and humid in our part of the world at that time of year so the kids were all in the pool. Pregnant with my second, I sat on the edge of the pool with my feet in. Our first born being so young, my husband was sitting next to me.


The parents of many of the other children were over by the food and drink, socializing. This is not blame, we were living in another country and in a very different culture where children grow up by the ocean and play in it daily without parental supervision. Children there play in the streets and go to the store by themselves at a very young age.


So there we sat supervising our little one having decided already that if a child were to need assistance my husband would go in and I would continue to watch our little one.


Within fifteen minutes a child of about six sunk, she just went down like a rock. As she came back up to the surface there was no sound coming from her. Her mouth was open and her eyes wide with fear, but she was not yelling for help or making eye contact with anyone. Her focus was simply upwards, towards air. Her mouth used only for gasping for breath as she bobbed up and down in the water.


I grabbed my husband's arm and pointed to the child. He looked at me confused so I pointed again and said "there, GO!". Luckily married to a former lifeguard and swim instructor, he has had drilled into him what it looks like when a child is drowning so once he saw what I was pointing at he recognized that the child was in trouble and went in after her. As he lifted her up out of the water she began to sob with relief, and hearing her crying, her parents came over to take care of her.


What is important here is not the story per se but the behaviours of the child while drowning. The movies would have us believe drowning is a loud and raucous affair with yelling and calling for help, lots of splashing arms and eye c