Father shares harrowing story after daughters nearly drown
"It's not like you see in the movies, there was no splashing, no yelling"
The father of two little girls taken to Cook Children’s after a non-fatal drowning incident says even when you think you are doing everything right, something terrible can go wrong.
The family, which has requested to remain anonymous, shared their story with Checkup Newsroom in hopes of preventing tragedies to other families.
“It was just a normal day at the pool,” said the girls’ father.
They were at a community pool on a recent July afternoon. The two girls, ages 5 and 6, had been playing in the water for less than 5 minutes when their brother decided he wanted to get out.
“All three were in my line of site. I watched my son get out of the pool. I took my eyes off the water for a matter of seconds to give him a cookie. When I looked at the pool again, I thought they were still playing.”
The father said he thought the girls were playing a game to see who could hold their breath the longest. He wasn’t too concerned since both take swim lessons twice a week and spend many hot afternoons in the water. He says he saw one girl jumping up and down, but the other stayed submerged. That’s when he jumped in.
“I grabbed her and started screaming for the lifeguards. Then I realized my oldest daughter was in trouble too.”
More than a dozen lifeguards rushed to their aid, along with a parent who also happened to be a nurse. Both girls were given CPR while another parent took their brother to get a popsicle so he wouldn’t have to see what was going on.
“It happened so fast. The entire episode couldn’t have taken more than 15 or 20 seconds,” said the girls’ father. “It’s not like you see in the movies, there was no splashing, no yelling. There were adults right there that didn’t even know they were in trouble.”
Unfortunately, this is something emergency room physicians and nurses hear all too often at Cook Children’s. Already this summer, 24 children have been admitted to the hospital for drowning and two have died. Over and over again, parents say they didn’t know their child was in danger because they didn’t see or hear anything.
“This is a huge issue in our community, especially in the summertime,” said Dana Walraven, community health outreach manager for Cook Children’s. “Parents may not realize how quickly children can drown, that’s why we teach ‘layers of protection.’”
Layers of protection are safety techniques that have proven to be effective ways to prevent drowning.
- 100% adult supervision while children are in and around water
- If you are alone with your child, stay with your child. Get in the water with your child and be in arm's reach.
- Swim with U.S. Coast Guard-approved life vests. Don't use floaties filled with air.
- Learn to swim at any age.
- Learn CPR.
- Install a fence on all sides of a backyard pool or spa. Secure the fence with a self-latching gate.
- Use alarms that can be put on children's wrists.
- Update pool/spa drain covers.
- Follow pool rules and signs.
- Install door alarms to alert adults when a child is entering the pool area.
The father who shared his story about his daughters says the depth of the pool played a big part in their close call.
He says he believed the pool was two and a half feet of water, but it actually became deeper in areas.
“My youngest daughter is fearless. She swam into the deeper area without me realizing it. Her older sister saw what was happening and was trying to help.”
He says if he had known the water became deeper, the girls would have been wearing their life vests.
“I’m one of the lucky ones. I got there in time to get them out. The lifeguards did a great job. I could have easily been planning a funeral right now for two little girls.”
Both girls were released from the hospital just one day after the incident. Their father says both are doing great and even had a plan for what they wanted to do once they were able to leave Cook Children’s
“When we left the hospital, the girls (as a family) wanted to go to thank the lifeguards for everything they did for us. My youngest response was "after we thank the lifeguards, can we go swimming?"
Lifeguard Your Child
Did you know that Texas is #1 in the nation for child pool drownings, or that drowning is the leading cause of accidental death for children ages 1 to 4? This year, Cook Children's is asking all parents to #LifeguardYourChild around water. For more information about how to protect your children around water, including where to find swim lessons and what to look for when purchasing a life-saving device, visit our drowning prevention website.