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Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning (A Must Read)

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Old 07-12-2010, 11:00 AM   #1
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Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning (A Must Read)

Its summer and most here will spend some time on or around some form of water so lets know what a drowning victim really looks like.


Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning



The new captain jumped from the cockpit, fully dressed, and sprinted through the water. A former lifeguard, he kept his eyes on his victim as he headed straight for the owners who were swimming between their anchored sportfisher and the beach. “I think he thinks you’re drowning,” the husband said to his wife. They had been splashing each other and she had screamed but now they were just standing, neck-deep on the sand bar. “We’re fine, what is he doing?” she asked, a little annoyed. “We’re fine!” the husband yelled, waving him off, but his captain kept swimming hard. ”Move!” he barked as he sprinted between the stunned owners. Directly behind them, not ten feet away, their nine-year-old daughter was drowning. Safely above the surface in the arms of the captain, she burst into tears, “Daddy!”

How did this captain know – from fifty feet away – what the father couldn’t recognize from just ten? Drowning is not the violent, splashing, call for help that most people expect. The captain was trained to recognize drowning by experts and years of experience. The father, on the other hand, had learned what drowning looks like by watching television. If you spend time on or near the water (hint: that’s all of us) then you should make sure that you and your crew knows what to look for whenever people enter the water. Until she cried a tearful, “Daddy,” she hadn’t made a sound. As a former Coast Guard rescue swimmer, I wasn’t surprised at all by this story. Drowning is almost always a deceptively quiet event. The waving, splashing, and yelling that dramatic conditioning (television) prepares us to look for, is rarely seen in real life.

The Instinctive Drowning Response – so named by Francesco A. Pia, Ph.D., is what people do to avoid actual or perceived suffocation in the water. And it does not look like most people expect. There is very little splashing, no waving, and no yelling or calls for help of any kind. To get an idea of just how quiet and undramatic from the surface drowning can be, consider this: It is the number two cause of accidental death in children, age 15 and under (just behind vehicle accidents) – of the approximately 750 children who will drown next year, about 375 of them will do so within 25 yards of a parent or other adult. In ten percent of those drownings, the adult will actually watch them do it, having no idea it is happening (source: CDC). Drowning does not look like drowning – Dr. Pia, in an article in the Coast Guard’s On Scene Magazine, described the instinctive drowning response like this:

1. Except in rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. The respiratory system was designed for breathing. Speech is the secondary or overlaid function. Breathing must be fulfilled, before speech occurs.
2. Drowning people’s mouths alternately sink below and reappear above the surface of the water. The mouths of drowning people are not above the surface of the water long enough for them to exhale, inhale, and call out for help. When the drowning people’s mouths are above the surface, they exhale and inhale quickly as their mouths start to sink below the surface of the water.
3. Drowning people cannot wave for help. Nature instinctively forces them to extend their arms laterally and press down on the water’s surface. Pressing down on the surface of the water, permits drowning people to leverage their bodies so they can lift their mouths out of the water to breathe.
4. Throughout the Instinctive Drowning Response, drowning people cannot voluntarily control their arm movements. Physiologically, drowning people who are struggling on the surface of the water cannot stop drowning and perform voluntary movements such as waving for help, moving toward a rescuer, or reaching out for a piece of rescue equipment.
5. From beginning to end of the Instinctive Drowning Response people’s bodies remain upright in the water, with no evidence of a supporting kick. Unless rescued by a trained lifeguard, these drowning people can only struggle on the surface of the water from 20 to 60 seconds before submersion occurs.

(Source: On Scene Magazine: Fall 2006)

This doesn’t mean that a person that is yelling for help and thrashing isn’t in real trouble – they are experiencing aquatic distress. Not always present before the instinctive drowning response, aquatic distress doesn’t last long – but unlike true drowning, these victims can still assist in their own rescue. They can grab lifelines, throw rings, etc.

Look for these other signs of drowning when persons are n the water:

* Head low in the water, mouth at water level
* Head tilted back with mouth open
* Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus
* Eyes closed
* Hair over forehead or eyes
* Not using legs – Vertical
* Hyperventilating or gasping
* Trying to swim in a particular direction but not making headway
* Trying to roll over on the back
* Ladder climb, rarely out of the water.

So if a crew member falls overboard and every looks O.K. – don’t be too sure. Sometimes the most common indication that someone is drowning is that they don’t look like they’re drowning. They may just look like they are treading water and looking up at the deck. One way to be sure? Ask them: “Are you alright?” If they can answer at all – they probably are. If they return a blank stare – you may have less than 30 seconds to get to them. And parents: children playing in the water make noise. When they get quiet, you get to them and find out why.
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Old 07-12-2010, 11:21 AM   #2
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Re: Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning (A Must Read)

Excellent article FD. Just had this experience with my son yesterday - he exhibited all of those "non-TV" symptoms. He is very new to swimming and has a phobia about water. He tried to get to me in water that was slightly over his head, slipped and started to panic. I was only two feet away and got him so it was no big deal - His heart was going a mile a minute though.

Honestly, I didn't recognize his actions as this "Instinctive Drowning Response" until reading the article, but it describes exactly what he was doing - Head low in the water; mouth at water level; head tilted back with mouth open; eyes glassy and empty; unable to focus; hyperventilating or gasping; and trying to swim in a particular direction but not making headway.

Excellent article and damn helpful. Absolutely one of the most useful things I have ever read on Warpath.

Thank you.
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Old 07-12-2010, 11:29 AM   #3
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Re: Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning (A Must Read)

I read it twice sooo....hopefully I will remember it. I spend a lot of time around the water and I will keep my eyes open for this stuff
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Old 07-12-2010, 11:42 AM   #4
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Re: Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning (A Must Read)

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Originally Posted by JoeRedskin View Post
Excellent article FD. Just had this experience with my son yesterday - he exhibited all of those "non-TV" symptoms. He is very new to swimming and has a phobia about water. He tried to get to me in water that was slightly over his head, slipped and started to panic. I was only two feet away and got him so it was no big deal - His heart was going a mile a minute though.

Honestly, I didn't recognize his actions as this "Instinctive Drowning Response" until reading the article, but it describes exactly what he was doing - Head low in the water; mouth at water level; head tilted back with mouth open; eyes glassy and empty; unable to focus; hyperventilating or gasping; and trying to swim in a particular direction but not making headway.

Excellent article and damn helpful. Absolutely one of the most useful things I have ever read on Warpath.

Thank you.
I'm 45 and have lived on or around the water sense I was 5 and in 40 yrs. I had never heard or read anything like this on drowning. I have also printed it off so I can give it to people I know who spend time on the water and will also pin this up at our cottage in Nags Head.
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Old 07-12-2010, 11:48 AM   #5
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Re: Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning (A Must Read)

Thank you FD
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Old 07-12-2010, 12:26 PM   #6
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Re: Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning (A Must Read)

Wow, what a powerful read. Nice thread
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Old 07-12-2010, 12:43 PM   #7
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Re: Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning (A Must Read)

Do you have the link to the article? This is one of those things that should forwarded to just about everyone.
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Old 07-12-2010, 01:10 PM   #8
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Re: Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning (A Must Read)

Here's one I found to it:

Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning
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Old 07-12-2010, 01:12 PM   #9
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Re: Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning (A Must Read)

I was a lifeguard in the summers of my college days, and this rings a bell from all those training sessions we had. I only had to jump in the pool one time in my three summers of lifeguarding, but I remember it was for a four year old boy who wasn't quite ready to use the diving board. He started swimming to the side just fine, but then his feet dropped from the surface and he went vertical. He was stationary, with his hands moving in a very fast doggie paddle motion. I was watching him closely thinking he would get himself going again, but then he looked up at me with a very panicked look in his eye, and that's when I went in.

It was very much like the article described. He was completely quiet, and to anyone on the surface of the water, he probably looked like he was just treading. But from the chair you could see how fast he was moving his limbs under water.

Pulled him out and he was fine, but ran over crying to his mom. Very good description from this article, in fact I just sent it to my buddies who run that pool now. I'm sure they'll share it with their lifeguards. Thanks for sharing FD.
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Old 07-12-2010, 02:27 PM   #10
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Re: Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning (A Must Read)

Quote:
Originally Posted by CRedskinsRule View Post
Here's one I found to it:

Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning
Thats the same one I found.
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Old 07-12-2010, 10:02 PM   #11
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Re: Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning (A Must Read)

wow.. this should be common knowledge but it isn't. .. thanks for posting... I've had this happen to me in a lake after a mean belly flop from a 3m board on my first ba kflip attempt when i was 9 or so...and got no response from the guard.. I was able to tread slightly but had the tilted head, lack of headway when paddling, etc
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Old 07-12-2010, 10:17 PM   #12
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Re: Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning (A Must Read)

Thanks for that post FD. My wife was an all-American water polo player in high school, and she lifeguarded for years. She mentioned something similar to this to me one time a few years back when were watching a movie and there was a "hollywood" drowning scene. She said something along the lines of "most times you don't even know the person is actually drowning if you don't know what to look for."

I was somewhat aware of this, but not to this extent. Great info.
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Old 07-13-2010, 08:10 AM   #13
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Re: Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning (A Must Read)

I'm reminded of the wise old saying:

How do you save a man from drowning?

Take your foot off his head.

Or how about this one? (Didn't think we could make this political, eh?)

"So Obama, Pelosi and Reid are in a row boat, and it springs a leak and starts to sink. Who gets saved?"

Answer: "The American people."
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Old 07-13-2010, 09:10 AM   #14
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Re: Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning (A Must Read)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mattyk View Post
I'm reminded of the wise old saying:

How do you save a man from drowning?

Take your foot off his head.

Or how about this one? (Didn't think we could make this political, eh?)

"So Obama, Pelosi and Reid are in a row boat, and it springs a leak and starts to sink. Who gets saved?"

Answer: "The American people."
So there is help for you after all.
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Old 07-13-2010, 09:11 AM   #15
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Re: Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning (A Must Read)

Not really, just repeating a bad joke from a repub.
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