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Zoethe

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Save a life. Seriously. [Jul. 9th, 2010|09:04 am]
Zoethe
Drowning Doesn't Look Like Drowning.

This is all kinds of triggery for me because, despite the fact that I was a little fish as a kid, I almost drown on two occasions. Both times, someone else was the instrument of my near destruction. I've written in the past about the man who almost drown me in a hotel swimming pool when I was 12. The other incident happened when I was 7.

When I was little, we used to go to a place called Coburg Beach on the Columbia River. It was a lovely spot, but was a bit dangerous because the eddying current that made it safe for us kids to swim without being carried downriver also created "potholes" in its soft sands. When we first went there my dad walked up and down until he found one and introduced us kids to the phenomenon. He had us feel the edges with our feet and then stepped into it so that we could see how he dropped down to where the water was up to his waist - well above our heads. Then he taught us that if we stepped into a pothole, we (who couldn't really swim yet), should jump up, kicking, break the surface and yell "Help!" before we went back down. Then he had us practice it.

We had a great time with that, first by jumping into the hole with him standing right there, then by pretending to fall into the hole while he stood a few feet away. Then my brother and I took turns falling into the hole and pulling each other out.

We were so disappointed, on our next trip there, not to find any potholes.

Later that summer, we went there with another family. Their daughter Leanne and I were best friends, and we were kicking along through the water about thigh deep. Leanne was afraid of the water and insisted that we hold hands.

We were walking toward our moms when she stepped in the pothole. Her grip strengthened by panic, she pulled me in with her.

I was now standing in a hole, under water, her hands wrapped tight around my arm. I knew our mothers were 10 feet away but would never be able to find us. Leanne, frozen in place except for her death grip, was going to drown us both.

Wrestling away from her, I kicked off the bottom and broke the surface, gasping in a breath. My mothers back was turned toward me. They had no idea we were in trouble. "He--" I got out before Leanne pulled me back down.

The second time I pushed harder and when my head broke the water I yelped "Help!" without first taking a breath. Leanne pulled me under as I was breathing in and I sucked in water. I coughed out what air I had left, and Leanne's grip tightened on me. I realized that we were done; I couldn't get away from her, and she was going to drown us, standing stock still in water just over our heads.

Then our moms grabbed us and pulled us out. I had yelled loud enough to be heard the second time.

I was a little mad at Leanne that she had almost killed us both, but I was much more upset that she refused to come back into the water for the rest of the day. She sat on the beach wrapped in a towel while I recounted our rescue, thanks to my heroics, to our brothers and dads. Several times.

It's funny; I never found that my near-death experiences in the water put me off swimming. In high school I swam myself to near-exhaustion trying to cross lakes at least twice, undeterred by previous experiences - I was always confident in myself as a swimmer, provided that no one else was around who might interfere with me. The only time my abilities failed me was when I tried to SCUBA. Drawing a breath when water is closed over my head terrifies me. I can snorkel just fine, but tank breathing fills me with anxiety.
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[User Picture]From: custardfairy
2010-07-09 01:08 pm (UTC)
Holy crap, I am so glad your dad taught you what to do in that situation. Also, I'm glad you had the strength to push yourself away from Leanne, if only for two seconds. Gah.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2010-07-09 01:13 pm (UTC)
My dad was kind of a goofus in many ways, but he was really good with Worst Case Scenario stuff. I'm sure he was thoroughly sick of our pretend drownings that first day, but it definitely paid off that we'd learned the lesson so well.
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[User Picture]From: halfmoon_mollie
2010-07-09 01:13 pm (UTC)
I read your linked post somewhere else, and found it very interesting.

And your post about nearly drowning...I find water a very forgiving medium, and yet it can be terrifying. I felt your panic when I read this.

I'm going looking for your post about nearly being drowned when you were 12.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2010-07-09 01:16 pm (UTC)
Alas, I am a terrible tagger. I have no idea where it is.

Water is wonderful, but it is also merciless.
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[User Picture]From: anivair
2010-07-09 01:25 pm (UTC)
I love that article. I haven't had an active lifeguard certification in many many years, but it's all good information to know. And thanks to Baywatch, we just have no idea what real drowning looks like.

I know what you mean, though. I had a pretty bad scare once as a child (when i was very young) that put me off swimming till almost high school. Once I got back in, though, I never wanted to leave. Weird how that goes.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2010-07-09 01:34 pm (UTC)
Nothing ever made me want to leave the pool, but I just can't do SCUBA. Which pisses me off.
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[User Picture]From: naath
2010-07-09 01:31 pm (UTC)
The same author also wrote http://gcaptain.com/maritime/blog/cold_water?11198 which is also well worth reading

Cliff notes version: if you fall in cold water IT IS BAD; drowning is likely, wear a life jacket even if you are super-good swimmer.

The closest I have come to drowning was falling suddenly from a punt (small river boat) into a cold river (not even close to cold enough for the cold alone to be a problem) - the shock of the sudden cold and the impact at an odd angle disoriented me so completely that it took WAY longer than it should have to find the surface.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2010-07-09 01:41 pm (UTC)
When we went out in boats in Alaska, we always wore life jackets.

Disorientation is a serious problem. I'm glad you were okay!
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[User Picture]From: mamculuna
2010-07-09 01:33 pm (UTC)
Thanks for reposting. The scariest near-drownings I've been involved with were other people's, and they were terrifying. I learned to swim when I was very young, and I spend a lot of time around water. I'm always amazed at the stupid things people do (like riding jet skis without life jackets...)
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2010-07-09 01:44 pm (UTC)
The foolishness of people never ceases to amaze me.
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[User Picture]From: cubes
2010-07-09 02:07 pm (UTC)
he taught us that if we stepped into a pothole, we (who couldn't really swim yet), should jump up, kicking, break the surface and yell "Help!"

Here's one part I hope gets across loud and clear to anyone with children (or any adults who can't swim):

ANYONE WHO CANNOT SWIM WELL SHOULD HAVE EYES ON THEM AT ALL TIMES WHILE IN OR NEAR WATER OVER THEIR HEADS.

Or in water not over their heads. Or even if there's a slight chance they could get into water over their heads. Anyone, ANYONE, who cannot swim their way out of whatever they might swim or fall into should not have to yell for help to get someone's attention.

Drowning causes the deaths of more children in the US than anything save car accidents. Sadly, like auto accident fatalities, most are easily preventable.

Teach your kids, and yourselves, to swim as early as possible. If you live or spend any time near a body of water (or a swimming pool), this is not merely recreation, it's a survival skill.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2010-07-09 02:20 pm (UTC)
I completely agree with you that kids should learn to swim as early as possible. And that kids should be watched like hawks when they are in the water, even if they can swim. We were both in swimming lessons, and we were both being watched. But my dad was also paranoid enough to know that even in the best of times there are moments when parents get distracted. He always wanted us to have the best chance of survival in a bad situation.

I have pulled kids out of deep water during swimming lessons when the teacher was working with other children in the class. I have jumped fully dressed into pools to grab kids whose mothers were right there on the deck but watching Kid Two. Even attentive parents brainfart now and then.

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[User Picture]From: nightingal_echo
2010-07-09 02:10 pm (UTC)

it's so important to educate

Thank you so much for posting that article. I'm an avid reader and after reading this, I'm so glad I am. I'm linking my fb and LJ to the article to share among more parents and water-lovers...

Melody
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2010-07-09 02:21 pm (UTC)

Re: it's so important to educate

If it saves one life, it's worth it.
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[User Picture]From: sestree
2010-07-09 02:21 pm (UTC)
That was one of the things they taught us in junior lifeguard class - listen for quiet spots.

Then again our pool wasn't very big and quite a few of us had taken the free lifeguard classes. We hauled more than one toddler out who got in trouble when their Mom wasn't looking, was sunbathing, whatever.

I had to teach my kids to swim. Both of them (and one was adopted - no blood relation) leapt off by the 6 foot with a "Mom watch this" before age 3. Both times I had to go in after them clothes and all. Both of them figured if I could swim so could they. They learned after that let me tell ya and so did I - man they can be QUICK and slippery.

Come to think of it I also learned to wear my suit even when picking up my stepdaughter from the pool :D Came in handy when her oldest pulled the same stunt at the same pool right below the same lifeguard chair ...........
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2010-07-09 02:32 pm (UTC)
Pulling toddlers out of pools while their moms thought they were watching was one of my regular self-imposed duties when I was in high school (we lived in an apartment complex with a pool). People think they are being more careful than they actually are. A bunch of us started teaching free swimming lessons on a completely volunteer basis because so many kids had to be rescued.
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From: diatryma
2010-07-09 02:58 pm (UTC)
I know what you mean about not being afraid in spite of near-drowning. I don't remember my own near-drowning-- wave pool, tube got away from me, then I'm on a deck chair with a lifeguard and a reporter, and I didn't tell anyone when I got back to the group-- and I still love wave pools. I'm actually much more freaked out by *currents*, especially any that could pull me toward (comparatively mild) danger.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2010-07-09 03:04 pm (UTC)
Wow, you were fortunate.
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[User Picture]From: meyerweb.com
2010-07-09 02:58 pm (UTC)
I recently, as in a few days before the linked article made the rounds, saw a toddler (not mine) lose her footing in the kiddie pool and begin to float face-down in the water. She immediately went into Instinctive Drowning Response, albeit horizontally. Her arms shot straight out and fluttered just below the surface of the water; she couldn't get her face up far enough to breathe, even though her back and the top of her head were above the waterline.

Someone closer to her also saw it and grabbed her and lifted her out well before she was in major danger, but what chilled me—and the article called this out—was that it was utterly silent. No thrashing, no splashes, no screams. Nothing. If I hadn't been looking right at her, I'd have missed it entirely. If nobody had been looking at her, she could have drowned in silence.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2010-07-09 03:06 pm (UTC)
That is extremely chilling. Yikes.
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[User Picture]From: plinko
2010-07-09 04:03 pm (UTC)
I am extremely extremely extremely afraid of drowning. Your post will give me lovely nightmares. That's okay, though, because I am tired of dreaming about bacon and kittens.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2010-07-09 04:07 pm (UTC)
It's not what I'm usually looking for in the line of being of service, but at least it's something....
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[User Picture]From: fallconsmate
2010-07-09 04:29 pm (UTC)
when my son was 10, his dad and his g/f took all the kids (she had a son our son's age, and her granddaughter) went to the beach in florida. i dont do well in too much heat/sun, so i stayed home.

the two boys got caught in a ripcurrent. and were 20 yards down the beach screaming before wolf could get off the blanket. the lifeguard earned his pay that day, both boys were fine.

i never want to hear about something like that again, ever. it was terrifying, and both of them were good swimmers.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2010-07-09 04:52 pm (UTC)
We also got riptide training from Dad; the Oregon coast is famous for them. I never got swept out by one, but did have a couple scary moments with my feet planted, fighting to stay upright.

And he and Mom taught us never to turn our back on the ocean. Which, after seeing a couple people slammed into rocks and badly bloodied by a rogue wave, is a lesson I'm glad to have followed.
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[User Picture]From: ba1126
2010-07-09 05:47 pm (UTC)
Thank you for that excellent link! As nanny to two kids, 6 & 8, Mom told me I could relax at the beach because they passed their "deep water" test. Now I'll be still vigilant, as I realize again that even good swimmers can have a problem.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2010-07-09 06:17 pm (UTC)
The comments to the article are pretty frightening. We are going to Disney with a total of 8 kids, and you can believe that, even though their parents will all be in charge of them, I will be keeping an eye on them while we are swimming!
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[User Picture]From: mishamish
2010-07-09 07:28 pm (UTC)
Being another young fish back in the day, I agree with you that I have no fear of water on my own. I know that I can float with zero effort on my part and move in still water with little more than that. So... really, unless I'm far enough from land that I have to worry about going to sleep.

As for worrying about OTHER people when swimming... I also had the rare pleasure of taking a lifeguard certification course... when I was 12. It's a long story how I got in, but I took another when I was 16 and I was glad I had the previous experience. Because sometime in the intervening 4 years, the Red Cross changed the course of study. Or maybe I just had a fantastic instructor the first time. Because he taught me three very important things.

A) A drowning victim doesn't want to pull you down. They want to pull themselves UP. They are simply trying to pull themselves up BY YOU. In some circumstances, they will try to climb ONTOP of you to get there. It's instinctual.

B) An easy way to stop struggling with them? Blow out all your air and go down. You have to fight your own instincts to do it, but do it. If you start pulling them down, they will drop you like a hot rock.

C) If they are grappling with you and you can't go down, you have to overrule their instinct not to drown with another instinct. The easiest is the instinct to flee pain. And, since the instinct not to drown is very strong, it has to be ALOT of pain. He then gave the entire class a series of pointers that would get you kicked out of any sport fighting league you care to name and are probably frowned upon specificially in the Geneva Convention. When one girl in the class asked if the methods in question were a bit extreme (fun fact: Ears are detachable!), he looked at her levelly and said "First priority: Survive. Secord Priority: Make sure they survive. Third Priority: Maim as little as possible. You can always apologize for hurting them later. But it's damn hard to apologize to a corpse."
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2010-07-09 07:53 pm (UTC)
Dad taught us that, too. Reading through the comments to that article, there are people there who had to abandon friends to save themselves. What an awful thing to have to live with.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2010-07-09 07:54 pm (UTC)
I never really thought about it that way, but there are definite parallels.
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