Water safety (or how to breathe air instead of H20)

Pride can seriously kill you.

Pride is especially dangerous around water – a point I wanted to note in light of supernovamom’s blog entry about swimming pools.

She has a neat, positive entry about how to find local pools.

I applaud her for that.

I wanted to add that unfortunately, there are also plenty of dangers at those pools for the city.

Pity.

So here’s some tips from those who were the first to certify me in a long line of those who found me certifiable – The American Red Cross: http://www.redcross.org/services/hss/tips/healthtips/safetywater.html

And here’s a story to illustrate what happens when lifeguards go bad:

Case in point, last summer my daughter boasted about her swimming ability at the beach and in ankle-deep water happily cavorted. I stood an arm’s distance away eyeing, uh, the waves – yeah – not the latest in swimsuit fashions on the beach and boardwalk in the opposite direction but the waves coming toward us.

A momentary lapse in my attention and I heard “DAD–EEEEE!,” turned and saw her slight form being sucked into deeper water by a wave.

Dad that I am, I sprang into action and grabbed her, just in time for a colossal breaker to slam me face-first into the sandy ocean floor while I held on to her. I used the wave’s momentum and pushed with my legs, holding onto my daughter with one arm while moving toward shore with my face still in the sand, plowing a neat little furrow all the way to shore as the wave then retreated and tried to take us out to sea.

I didn’t even want to take the time to raise my head because instincts told me that would take precious time needed instead to get my daughter as close to dry land as possible.

At that point I’d been swimming for almost 41 years – starting younger than my daughter – and yet still barely escaped becoming a headline reading “Dad, Daughter Drown at Beach.”

I’d thought, “ankle-deep water – hah! we can handle that,” despite the fact this was the Atlantic Ocean and a Delaware beach, someplace I’d never been.

I’d learned to swim down at Cocoa Beach, Florida, while watching Apollo missions blast skyward. But the waves are a lot tamer there.

At this Delaware beach, I learned to swallow my pride, sand and some seawater.

This pride carries over to swimming pools.

(Note to lifeguards – my daughter hasn’t mastered swimming yet and neither have most of the kids you’ll hear boasting. Watch them close – please).

From age 15 to 18 I was a certified lifeguard, working at Dallas pools and I’m sure annoying the crap out of a lot of kids just out for a good time. The most ever happened on my watch was a bloody knee (“See – I told you not to run!”) and near-drowning.

After hearing children screaming for help (I was admiring swimsuit fashions of the mid-1970s) I turned to see a child flailing the water under the high diving board. After trying to stick a pole in his face to get him to grab on I wound up holding on to the pool ladder. I reached out with one long arm to grab a child’s hand and pull him to safety.

(Thank you Jesus for my long ape-like arms even if kids did call me Egor and make fun).

As we were taught, always try to find something to throw or push out to someone drowning – the last thing you want to do is make physical contact. But the child refused to grab the long pole and was going under so I had to skip the next best thing – holding on to the side and getting him to grab a towel or other item. As a very last resort – I was taught to extend your hand and pull them in.  

I did.

The air-challenged child grabbed hold. Once on the pool’s deck, he coughed up all the pool water he’d swallowed.

That was pretty much it – happy ending once he stopped spewing water and started breathing air.

In hope of more happy endings and days at the beach I offered the link above to the American Red Cross site on water safety.

The other point to make – even lifeguards are fallible.

Take as much care as you can to make sure your children are going to swim in a safe place with attentive lifeguards.

Go with them the first couple of times to make sure the place is safe.

I’ll get down off my lifeguard stand now.

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One Response

  1. Yeah, the Atlantic up north is a force! As is pride I suppose.

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