The Day They Went Under

Robbie and Kelsey at David's weddingYou would have thought I was opening a treasure chest.

My 3-year-old daughter, Kelsey and 4-year-old son, Robbie watched as I pulled clothes out of our suitcase. On top was Kelsey’s delicate lavender dress with its satin sash. Then, Robbie’s nice slacks and his little-boy-sized red tie. Tucked under them was the “treasure” they were really wanting. Their swim suits!

We had traveled to Park City, Utah to attend my brother’s wedding. The fancy clothes were for tomorrow’s festivities, but the swim suits were for now. We were going to the pool! Our home in Los Angeles did not have a swimming pool, but the mountain lodge we just checked into did.

I enjoyed hearing their giggles and splashing as they played. I sat in a chair on the edge, loving the mountain air. How cute they were! Without a care in the world, I was happily watching their joy.

What happened next unfolded quickly.

They moved into a deeper area of the pool than they had previously been playing in. They were holding the edge. They let go and paddled out to deep water, then went straight down. I’ll never know why it happened. I’m guessing they were frightened or felt panic. For whatever reason they could not get back up for air.

Fully clothed, I went in after them. I am truly grateful that I’m a former competitive swimmer for whom swimming is my lifelong love. I was also a professional lifeguard for several years. I knew what to look for and could discern quickly that they were not joking around. Their drowning was absolutely silent.

My denim jacket had a padded/quilted lining and the longer I was under the heavier it got. Why I didn’t cast it off prior to jumping in is a question I ask of myself. Thankfully, lifeguard training prepared me to do a rescue while fully-clothed.

If you are the designated water watcher this summer, please take minute to read these 5-tips from Lana Whitehead, founder of SWIMkids USA.   Lana is the recipient of a 2014 Health Care Hero award from the Phoenix Business Journal for the impact she has had on educating our community about the dangers of drowning.

Water watcher tips:

  • Young children require close supervision. How close? “It should be within an arm’s length,” Lana says.
  • It is best is to be in the water with the child. “That way you have your ears, your eyes, and the tactile benefit of feeling the turbulence of the water if the child is struggling,” Lana explains.
  • If you cannot be in the water, sit on the side with your feet dangling in the pool.
  • A designated adult should be watching children at all times with no distractions. SWIMkids USA provides free water watcher wrist bands that say “I’m in charge! Lifeguard on duty” to anyone who would like one.
  • Switch the person who is watching the swimmers every 15 minutes. This person must know how to swim.

The chance for distraction is great when the sun is shining and the kids are having fun. But, think of the image of a professional lifeguard. It is not the same as babysitting. A designated lifeguard is never involved in any other activity such as reading, playing cards, talking on the phone, or mowing the lawn while supervising children.

My children came up coughing-up water and crying. They were successfully rescued. They say today that they learned a valuable lesson from the experience. I also thought about how I had Kelsey in dance lessons and Robbie did baseball (T-ball). After that, I made time in their afternoons for more swim lessons.

To get your free water watcher wrist band contact SWIMkids USA at (480) 820-9109. Or visit their website for contact here: SWIMkids USA

For more information about water safety read this from the Centers for Disease Control.

CDC Water Safety Information