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Vigilance + water = lives saved

Out of My Head

Posted: May 24, 2008 2:22 p.m.
Updated: July 25, 2008 5:04 a.m.
 

Few news stories are as heartbreaking as those involving children drowning.

California's leading cause of accidental death of kids under 5, drowning is profoundly tragic on several levels.

It needlessly cuts precious lives short, and in the case of survived near-drownings, can lead to brain damage or other life-changing deficits.

It frequently leaves aggrieved families blaming themselves for not preventing the catastrophe from happening in the first place.

What a sad, miserable legacy that must be.

Last week, we were distressed to learn that 3-year old girl had drowned in a Tesoro del Valle community pool.

The next day, we were troubled to read that a 2-year old boy fell into a Valencia pool and nearly died.
Ironically, both incidents occurred with parents at the pool, as is the case in most drowning and near-drowning situations.

You see that and think, "How can that be? How do they 'allow' this to happen?"

I know for a fact that such accidents can occur even when loving and generally attentive parents are on the scene.

I know because it happened to me.

*  *  *  *  *

Fifty years ago I nearly drowned in my grandparents' desert resort swimming pool.

I remember it well.

My mother, believing my pool safety apparatus of-the-day was reliable, had dashed indoors to answer the business telephone.

Running away dripping wet, she turned and instructed me to, "Stay put!"

Being an active child on a triple-digit day, I got a little rambunctious.

The next thing I knew I was upside down peering out through watery eyes.

With my feet wildly kicking in the air and head and chest submerged, I frantically attempted to "right" my plastic swim ring floatie. But even for a strong five-year-old already well on her to way to swimming like Johnny Weissmuller, that feat was impossible.

The physics were against me: The floatie was doing its job, but the wrong end was being buoyed.
I was petrified, wondering if anyone would save me. Seconds seems like an eternity.

Thankfully, within a minute or two, my shrieking mother jumped in and scooped her gasping, blue-lipped tot out of the water.

While I don't recall if she was mad for my not "staying put," I do remember her being ecstatic that I was OK.

I also suspect she was mad at herself for leaving me, even for a short time.

Looking back, I know I was one of the lucky ones. I didn't become one of the 260 youngsters who drown each year in pools and spas.

*  *  *  *  *

With temperatures climbing, many families are heading outdoors for cool, water-related fun. (And with gas prices so steep, more folks are staying in their own backyards or visiting local waterways).

While summer is the season most often associated with kids and water safety, the truth is, drowning prevention must be practiced year-round, with areas of vulnerability including pools, spas, lakes, river, water parks, toilets, buckets and bathtubs.

To better promote water safety and reduce drowning, many useful tips are available online through the American Red Cross, The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, The city of Santa Clarita, the YMCA, and others. I urge you to read this information.

The small amount of time expended could make a vital difference in a child's lifetime - and prevent another grief-stricken family having a legacy of regrets.

For swimming course enrollment, contact the Santa Clarita Valley Cross at (661) 259-1805 or www.redcrossla.org.

The city of Santa Clarita also offers low cost swimming and water safety classes. Call them at (661) 250-3700 or visit www.santa-clarita.com/seasons.

Water safety info from the Sheriff's Department can be viewed at http://incident.scvsheriff.com.

The YMCA may be contacted at (661) 253-3593, or online go to www.ymca.org.

Diana Sevanian is a writer and Santa Clarita resident. Her column reflects her own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.

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