Skip to comments.Drowning Doesn't Look Like Drowning (Must Read Info)
Posted on 07/16/2011 8:10:03 AM PDT by libertarian27
The new captain jumped from the deck, fully dressed, and sprinted through the water. A former lifeguard, he kept his eyes on his victim as he headed straight for the couple swimming between their anchored sportfisher and the beach. I think he thinks youre drowning, the husband said to his wife. They had been splashing each other and she had screamed but now they were just standing, neck-deep on the sand bar. Were fine, what is he doing? she asked, a little annoyed. Were fine! the husband yelled, waving him off, but his captain kept swimming hard. Move! he barked as he sprinted between the stunned owners. Directly behind them, not ten feet away, their nine-year-old daughter was drowning. Safely above the surface in the arms of the captain, she burst into tears, Daddy!
How did this captain know from fifty feet away what the father couldnt recognize from just ten? Drowning is not the violent, splashing, call for help that most people expect. The captain was trained to recognize drowning by experts and years of experience. The father, on the other hand, had learned what drowning looks like by watching television. If you spend time on or near the water (hint: thats all of us) then you should make sure that you and your crew knows what to look for whenever people enter the water. Until she cried a tearful, Daddy, she hadnt made a sound. As a former Coast Guard rescue swimmer, I wasnt surprised at all by this story. Drowning is almost always a deceptively quiet event. The waving, splashing, and yelling that dramatic conditioning (television) prepares us to look for, is rarely seen in real life.
The Instinctive Drowning Response so named by Francesco A. Pia, Ph.D., is what people do to avoid actual or perceived suffocation in the water. And it does not look like most people expect. There is very little splashing, no waving, and no yelling or calls for help of any kind. To get an idea of just how quiet and undramatic from the surface drowning can be, consider this: It is the number two cause of accidental death in children, age 15 and under (just behind vehicle accidents) of the approximately 750 children who will drown next year, about 375 of them will do so within 25 yards of a parent or other adult. In ten percent of those drownings, the adult will actually watch them do it, having no idea it is happening (source: CDC). Drowning does not look like drowning Dr. Pia, in an article in the Coast Guards On Scene Magazine, described the instinctive drowning response like this:
Except in rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. The respiratory system was designed for breathing. Speech is the secondary or overlaid function. Breathing must be fulfilled, before speech occurs.
Drowning peoples mouths alternately sink below and reappear above the surface of the water. The mouths of drowning people are not above the surface of the water long enough for them to exhale, inhale, and call out for help. When the drowning peoples mouths are above the surface, they exhale and inhale quickly as their mouths start to sink below the surface of the water.
Drowning people cannot wave for help. Nature instinctively forces them to extend their arms laterally and press down on the waters surface. Pressing down on the surface of the water, permits drowning people to leverage their bodies so they can lift their mouths out of the water to breathe.
Throughout the Instinctive Drowning Response, drowning people cannot voluntarily control their arm movements. Physiologically, drowning people who are struggling on the surface of the water cannot stop drowning and perform voluntary movements such as waving for help, moving toward a rescuer, or reaching out for a piece of rescue equipment.
From beginning to end of the Instinctive Drowning Response peoples bodies remain upright in the water, with no evidence of a supporting kick. Unless rescued by a trained lifeguard, these drowning people can only struggle on the surface of the water from 20 to 60 seconds before submersion occurs. (Source: On Scene Magazine: Fall 2006 (page 14))
This doesnt mean that a person that is yelling for help and thrashing isnt in real trouble they are experiencing aquatic distress. Not always present before the instinctive drowning response, aquatic distress doesnt last long but unlike true drowning, these victims can still assist in their own rescue. They can grab lifelines, throw rings, etc.
Look for these other signs of drowning when persons are in the water:
Head low in the water, mouth at water level
Head tilted back with mouth open
Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus
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.
So if a crew member falls overboard and everything looks OK dont be too sure. Sometimes the most common indication that someone is drowning is that they dont look like theyre drowning. They may just look like they are treading water and looking up at the deck. One way to be sure? Ask them, Are you alright? If they can answer at all they probably are. If they return a blank stare, you may have less than 30 seconds to get to them. And parents children playing in the water make noise. When they get quiet, you get to them and find out why.
There were recent drownings in my area and I searched out this article again to re-read and post locally.
Thanks, this is a keeper!
Good post! Thank you!
My oldest Son was a Ocean lifeguard and he told me some stories,His section of the beach had a lot of rip tides.
Thank you for posting this.
Thank you so much for posting this. This is probably a really stupid question, but I have often wondered why skilled swimmers have drowned in pools of water that are not dangerous or turbulent.
Thanks for re-posting. This is something that everyone needs to be reminded of each summer.
Thank you. I saw it last year...printed it out for the family, and we discussed it....doing the same again this time around...we have kids and grand-kids who love the water...
Thank you for posting this. I have sent it out to everyone in my address book.
You will possibly save a life by sharing this information.
Great post, thanks!
pimg to share at work
Thank you for posting. Although I am a skilled swimmer NOW, I had two near-drowning experiences as a kid. The article is absolutely correct to my reactions. No splashing or yelling at all (almost passive to an onlooker). Scary stuff!
Thanks for posting this. I saw it happen once, I was on the scene and didn’t recognize it, 40 + years ago. Fortunately an adult did, and acted appropriately.
Thanks. Great post.
Well done,I’m going to pass this on. Thanks!!!
I remember when I was 4, on vacation with the family in Gatlinburg. My brother’s family was with us and I wanted to get in the “big pool” with them, so I stepped off the steps into the water and immediately went under. I remember the ladder climbing thing, trying to put my head above water..
That just about happened to me when I was a child. I was in the pool and, I don’t how I got in that situation, I ended up underwater near the edge of the pool. The only thing I did was raise my hand in the air and keep it steady, but I wasn’t making any attempt to save myself because, for some reason, I couldn’t do it.
If it hadn’t been for the fact that some person grabbed my hand and got my attention, I could have very well drowned.
Thank you. I too assumed that drowning was as depicted in the movies.
I had a near-drowning experience as an 8 year old. I was able to vividly recall the event and it was exactly as the article described. I could not yell or wave my arms-as much as I wanted to. I was vertical and tried to roll onto my back. I was fortunate that a friends mother was watching me and wondered why I stopped swimming in deeper water. She saw the glazed frightened look in my eyes and saved me,
The saddest thing I ever witnessed was the drowning of a seven year old girl at a local lake. There was no struggling, no splashing, no yelling help me- nothing that would attract attention. Just a girl, jumping of the dock going straight down and never surfacing.
Drowning is deceptive. People can get easily trapped underwater in "ye olde swimming hole" ~ or even in a backyard rubber pool ~ AS WELL! Wave Pools drown their share too.
If you are responsible for your own kids ~ you must keep track of them. Don't depend on others.
Ever had both calves cramp up on you in the water?
I can offer one answer. It's called "hypoxia," and it's when swimmers hold their breath too long. It happens with even with -- and perhaps especially with -- competitive swimmers. Swimmers know that even when their brains tell them "You've got to stop holding your breath and get some air," physiologically their bodies can go further; it's a mental game. Swimmers who get hypoxia miscalculate, and black out in the water. They don't splash, they don't gurgle, nothing -- they just stop moving. And unless a fellow swimmer nearby or someone sharp-eyed sees it in time to pull them out of the water, they drown.
It happens more often than one might expect. It's why some public swimming pools where competitived swimmers train and work out have rules about how far and how long people can swim without taking a breath, and the lifeguard will come down hard on swimmers they see who are pushing themselves too hard in breath-holds.
I grew up on the beach here in So Cal. A few years ago, I was ‘rescued’ by a lifeguard from a rip tide. I didn’t even realize I was caught, and thought I was moving forward towards the shore, but I was not. When he pulled me free from the tide, then I recognized what was happening. I was not going down, but I was getting tired and going nowhere.
I used to, all the time. For about 20 years, swimming laps has been my main workout. If you get calf cramps, try this: before getting in the water, do a few seconds of stretching where you stand on the ledge of something -- a step, or the bench in the shower room, on your toes, with your heels and most of your feet hanging over the edge of the step or bench. Raise up on your tippy toes, and then lower down as far as you can on your toes, so that your heels are below the level of your toes, to gently stretch the calf muscle. Do it gently, slowly, about five times. A sports therapist taught me that trick, and it works. I swim quite a lot with a variety of fins (hence my screenname!), and as you know, fins will give you calf cramps but quick if you're not conditioned, and even sometimes if you are!
I still occasionally get calf cramps in the water (when I'm not getting enough potassium in my diet, I figure), and when that happens, I concentrate on RELAXING the muscles in both my ankles and calves. It takes real focus, but it also works.
Thank you for scaring me. My little one needs more swimming lessons.
But, as people's experience on this thread and the article states, even the best of swimmers can be caught in a life threatening situation.
I read this article last year here and it scared me to pay attention to "the quiet and still times" of swimming - making sure people are attentive....even if it's to shout out "Marco" - if not everyone shouts back "Polo" - why? (and that game drives me batty - lol)
Such a shame that Casey Anthony didn’t see this in time. /s
The first guy my son pulled in,his kid came running up and said thank for saving my daddy!
I was more worried about lightning than anything else, we have some bad storms once in a while and those LG shacks are high on the beach,anyway he went back to college in the fall so I was kinda of relieved.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.