Did you know drowning is the number one cause of unintentional death for children aged one to four?
I didn’t until last month.
While on our annual beach vacation with five other families, one of the children slipped away while the adults were cleaning up dinner—not drinking, not sitting around ignoring our children—just doing a normal, everyday activity. Moments later, we looked out the glass doors and noticed someone on the bottom of the pool. That someone was a 3-year-old little boy named Levi. The rest of the night is kind of a blur … our husbands (all physicians) worked diligently to get him breathing again. They had him intubated before EMT arrived and were able to get his pulse back by the time he was put in a helicopter. However, that wasn’t enough and he was pronounced dead early that next morning.
Our group was left questioning everything.
Why did this happen? This is something you read about and never actually happens to you. We are so careful. This was our seventh year taking this trip, in the exact same house, and we have never come close to having anything like this happen.
Levi’s mom, Nicole, started doing research and found some staggering statistics.
→ Drowning is the number 1 cause of unintentional death in children aged 1-4.
→ 69% of deaths occurred when children were not expected to be swimming (yet, they were found in the water)
→ 77% of drowning deaths were children who had been seen in the last 5 minutes.
Children are quick; they get out of your eyesight in a moment. Think of your children. Have you ever found one drawing on the wall with crayon, pulling out all the toilet paper on a roll, or putting on your makeup? In those instances, although a nuisance, you luckily found them in a harmless situation. In Levi’s case, he more than likely slipped outside, saw a toy he wanted in the pool, reached down to get it and fell in. He knew not to go in the pool by himself; it had been drilled in his head by his parents.
Unfortunately, there is not enough drowning prevention education. Especially for those of us who live in Florida and are surrounded by water constantly. Why aren’t drowning statistics on display in pediatric offices and given out at well-child visits? Parents learn how many ounces of milk your 2-year-old should be getting, but do you learn what the number one cause of unintentional death is in their age range? Or how to identify if someone is actually drowning?
Now, I am a firm believer in ISR, but I know that that doesn’t always work. All three of my children have taken the classes, but my middle child pretty much forgot everything he learned in the 8-week period the day after he graduated. I still enrolled him in it the following year and currently have my 21-month old in it. Will this help them if they were ever in Levi’s situation? I hope so, but no one truly knows until it’s too late.
Pool fences can be left open and alarms can be turned off. People assume other people are watching the kids in the pool. Yes, ISR and swimming lessons may help save a life. But, the most effective way to prevent drowning is to have a designated supervisor. Water Guardians: Levi’s Legacy was started by his parents to help prevent other parents from going through this unimaginable tragedy. They have created a tangible reminder of who is designated as the person watching the children because there is NO alternative to supervision when it comes to water safety.
Please be hyper-vigilant when children are around water (in swimming situations and when it’s not a designated swimming time). Consider having a designated guardian and implementing any and all other precautions you can think of. It is up to each of us to never forget how quickly and regularly a child drowning can occur. I would hate for anyone to suffer the way my friends are suffering now.
About the Author
Jessica was born and raised in South Florida. She attended the University of Florida and then received her Master’s Degree from Nova Southeastern in Medical Science Physician Assistant. She met her husband, Mike, while at UF. They called Birmingham, Alabama home for seven years while he finished his medical training. Once done, they made their way back to his hometown of Jacksonville where they happily live with their 3 crazy boys!