My Son Nearly Drowned and Nobody Saw it Happen

Drowning is the leading cause of death in children ages 1-4 and the second leading cause of death in children ages 1-14 after motor vehicle crashes.

That’s why I’ve always been a believer in starting my children in swimming lessons at a young age.  It’s important to me that they feel confident and have fun in the water and be safe and truly know how to swim without the help of a life vest.  

My daughter started lessons at age 3 and now, at age 8, she is a very safe and confident swimmer.  

For my son, who is 3 ½, his first experience at swimming lessons is one I’ll never forget.

My Son Nearly Drowned and Nobody Saw it HappenWe checked in upon our arrival to lessons on the first day.  We felt we knew the routine because my daughter had been taking lessons at this place for 4 years.  Both of my kids were given their leveled placements cards.  They were then escorted down to the pool to begin their lessons.

Something felt off to me.  I had texted my husband after I went to the bleachers to sit down that I was feeling nervous for some reason.  Looking back now I do believe “mother’s intuition” was playing a leading role in what happened that day. 

I noticed my son had walked past the preschool section, which is the level I had registered him for and was over on the side of the pool with the leveled classes.  I saw the instructors take the placement cards from the kids and tell the kids to sit on the pool’s side.

In the morning leading up to lessons, my daughter and I talked with my son about how he needed to listen to his swim teachers and they would help keep him safe.    

So he listened.  He gave them his card.  He walked over to the side of the pool, sat down on the edge, and slid into the water.

And then, he sank.  

I was sitting on an upper level, as all the parents do.  The pool was down on the lower level.  I felt helpless– absolutely helpless. His arms began flailing and splashing.  He was struggling to keep his head above water. 

Nobody else noticed.

My son was drowning and I couldn’t help him.

I started yelling, “Help him!  Help him!” over and over, louder and louder, as I watched his arms flail around.  Others nearby heard me yelling and noticed what was happening.  Some even began yelling with me.

Finally, an instructor on the side of the pool saw him and jumped in to help him.  A crowd of instructors gathered around him.  It turns out, they had given him the wrong placement card when we checked in.  They had given him the beginner card when he should have been given the preschool card.

It was a simple mistake, but one that could have ended far worse.

Once he was out of the water and safe I had numerous people come up and talk to me because they had witnessed what happened.  One said something that really made me think.  She said, “I’m so sorry that happened but good for you for paying attention.  Until I heard you yelling, I was just looking down at my phone.”

My Son Nearly Drowned and Nobody Saw it Happen

What if I hadn’t been paying attention?  If I hadn’t watched him walk to the pool, sit on the edge, slide into the water, and sink, how long would it have taken for me or someone else to truly notice and understand what was happening?

My son nearly drowned. In the blink of an eye, my world could have been turned upside down if I had just been sitting there scrolling through my phone.

I can’t even think about that. 

But I can use this as an opportunity to remind you to please pay attention. Stay aware. Be present.

I know I’m guilty of it too. We feel as though having our children in the hands of others (coaches, instructors, etc.) allows us a few moments to be “off duty.”  But what happened that day made me, and others present, realize how being attentive is so important.

You just never know when your awareness could make a huge difference. 

We took him to his pediatrician that day to have him checked out.  The thought of dry drowning and secondary drowning had me so scared, and because I wasn’t down by the pool when it was happening I didn’t know exactly how much water he had inhaled. The 48 hours after the incident occurred were very stressful, especially while he was sleeping.

My son is okay, and I’m so thankful for that. 

But life is happening around us and the more we are zoned into our screens, the less we are really experiencing and noticing what is happening around us.

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Ashley is a ‘small town’ girl who moved to the ‘big city’ of Cedar Rapids after high school. A graduate of Coe College, Ashley is currently a kindergarten teacher and a true lover of yoga pants, cozy sweatshirts, chai tea lattes and cookie dough. Ashley and her husband, Mitch, first met each other back in middle school, dated when they were freshmen in high school, then reconnected one final time via Facebook back in 2006 shortly after Mitch returned from his first deployment. They've stood by their vows of ‘for better or worse,’ and as they approach their 10 year wedding anniversary, they aren’t afraid to admit that marriage isn’t easy. They welcomed their first child, Stella Grace Bass, in May of 2013 and their second child, Archer Mitchell Bass, in December of 2017!

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