Tips on preventing a near-death by drowning

According to the Royal Life Saving Society – Australia annual reportst for every one death by drowning, there are several near-deaths by drowning.

Unfortunately, statistics on near-deaths by drowning are difficult to find. There seems to be little research done in this area. I did read in a Canadian report that there are six near-deaths by drowning for every one drowning. If I use this formula, it equates to 1596 Australians who experienced a near-death by drowning incident between 1 July 2013 and 30 June 2014.

The consequence of a near death by drowning is that there is a risk of brain damage. Some people fully recover and suffer no brain damage; others can experience brain damage ranging from mild to severe. The effects of brain damage can include memory problems, learning disabilities, and permanent loss of basic functions like breathing and eating.

When a loved one experiences brain damage as a result of a near-death by drowning incident, the family suffers a life-long emotional burden, perhaps most significantly for the person who feels responsible for the accident. This emotional burden occurs not only from the incident, but also from the additional responsibility needed by family members in caring for someone who has brain damage. Imagine a child who cannot dress, eat, speak or go to the bathroom – that child would require round-the-clock care.

In addition to the emotional burden, there is also a financial burden to the family and the community (tax payers). As far as I can see the exact costs have never been fully researched and there is very little information on these statistics.

As a result of a near-death by drowning incident, the financial burden can include:

  • a family member giving up work to become a full time carer, which results in the loss of a potentially vital income stream.
  • in the case of severe brain damage, an individual may need to be hospitalized for the rest of their life. The cost to tax-payers could run into millions of dollars over the life of that individual.

What can we do to prevent a near-death by drowning incident from occurring?

First, I am appealing for everyone to please be very vigilant when you and your family are around any body of water. Those bodies of water include nappy buckets, paddle pools, washing machines (full of water), bathtubs, water troughs, backyard swimming pools, public swimming pools, lakes, dams, rivers, creeks and the ocean. Indeed any body of water large enough for a toddler to lie in and has somewhere between 200 – 300 mm of water in it can be fatal to a toddler.

For those of you who have pools, please make sure you regularly check your pool gate closes according to Australian Standards and remove any object that may allow your child to climb on to and then over the pool fence.

Just about every toddler drowning can be avoided by close supervision by the parent or carer. Please be aware of any body of water your child can access, especially when you are in a different environment to your home. NEVER let them out of your sight if you are out in the open with your child and make sure you regularly check to make sure your child cannot breach safe boundaries.

Be vigilant and make sure you are conscious of any body of water your child can access, no matter how insignificant you think it may be.

The price of a child’s life is constant vigilance.

Chris Shapland.