ED staff mourns 3 drowning deaths
In her almost 15 years at Cook Children’s, Kimberly Aaron, M.D., hasn’t clamored for the media spotlight. But after seeing three drowning deaths in one week, the medical director of the Cook Children’s Emergency Department did something she’s never done before. She requested to speak to the media.
Dr. Aaron spent her morning on Thursday, July 24, doing interviews with newspaper, radio and three local TV stations.
“I’ve never been one to reach out to the media or certainly get in front of the camera,” Dr. Aaron said. “I’ve had those times where I’ve been asked to be on camera and needed to do that. This is the first time where I’ve ever picked up the phone and called our team and said, ‘Guys, we need to do something. We need to reach out because three in one week … that’s just too many.’”
The mother of a 2-year-old son, the swimming deaths hit way too close for Dr. Aaron. All three children who died were between the ages of 2 to 4 years old. The teams at Cook Children’s involved in the three drowning events met with Cameron Brown, a member of Cook Children’s Pastoral Care and a firefighter, who is specially trained to lead caregivers through a critical incident stress debriefing. To put it simply, they were heart broken.
“This is what we do. This is our profession, but it impacts us,” Dr. Aaron said. “We’ve had great sorrow. That is minimal to what we sense must be happening with these families and close friends. It’s unusual for us to have three cases in one week ... and we still have many weeks of summer left.”
What makes the deaths even more tragic is the fact that most drownings are preventable. Dana Walraven, Cook Children’s Community Health Outreach manager and Safe Kids Tarrant County coordinator, also spent the day with media to discuss drowning prevention steps. Texas has the highest incidence of swimming pool- and spa-related childhood drownings in the United States. All three children who died were pool related incidents.
Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional deaths for children 1 to 4 years of age. The common myth of children splashing, waving their arms around and yelling is simply not true.
“In many drowning situations, an adult was just a few feet away from the pool and didn’t realize anything was wrong because he or she didn’t hear any sounds of distress, such as splashing or yelling,” Walraven said. “Drowning is a silent event that can occur in the time it takes to send a text message. Should supervision fail for any reason, having multiple layers in place helps protect your child.”
Walraven offers these drowning prevention basics:
- Have your children take swim lessons.
- Have the entire family taking swim and safety lessons.
- Learn CPR.
- Provide 100 percent supervision without distractions.
- Use pool and child alarms to alert you if your child gets in the water without you.
- Isolate your pool from the rest of your backyards with a permanent, four-sided fence with self-latching gates to prevent kids from accessing the pool area without adult supervision.
“We realize that it could happen to anyone,” Dr. Aaron said. “It happens very, very quickly. We’re not being judgmental. We feel so strongly about this and knowing how it impacts us we wanted to reach out and raise awareness to the community.”