By Emma Waverman
From the print edition, Summer 2012
It was the scariest few moments of Catherine Dennis’ life when she ran to the school to see the emergency vehicles with their lights flashing. She knew it was for her son, who had been pulled out of the pool by his swim coach minutes earlier.
Nine-year-old Evan is a skilled swimmer, but he had been practicing holding his breath and kicking hard to see how far he could go underwater when he passed out. His highly trained coach noticed something was wrong and dove in with her clothes on to pull him out of the water. His lips were blue when he came out of the water, but he started breathing immediately on his own.
This is when Evan’s sister called her mom, who was nearby running errands during practice. Catherine dropped everything and arrived at the pool to find Evan was talking and doing okay. But the next five hours at Sick Kids Hospital trying to find out why he had passed out were excruciating, she says.
Turns out, he passed out under water because he was holding his breath and exerting himself too hard.
Spotting the Signs of Drowning
Barbara Byers, director of public education at the Lifesaving Society, says that no matter how skilled a swimmer your child is, never take your eyes off him in the water.
Drowning does not look like drowning in the movies, she says. “It is quiet and it can be quick.”
Byers says to watch for any change in behaviour in the water, especially slowing down or a clawing movement. People who are drowning cannot scream for help, so someone has to be watching kids in the water at all times. She recommends also discouraging kids from staying under water for too long.
Catherine Dennis is grateful to the coach and won’t be leaving swim team training again soon. Evan has already been back to swim team, sporting a bright orange swim cap so Catherine can see him no matter where he is.
For more information on water safety, check out this post on how to prevent accidents in the water.