When it happens to you

According to the CCTV footage from the pool, 19 seconds is what it took from the time my 3-year old daughter began drowning to the time her father lifted her out of the water. She was already unconscious and had stopped breathing. At the time, she was being supervised by her father, who was doing a great job with our two kids at my son’s Pokémon-themed 6th birthday party. He thought she was safe for a moment while he turned around to look at our son. In fact she wasn’t even in the water yet. She did what he didn’t anticipate…she went under a railing and dropped straight into the pool…without a splash.

In the midst of cleaning up from my son’s party, I walked over to the large pool to help a little boy find his mum, when I walked straight into the most distressing scene I had ever laid eyes upon. It was my daughter drowning, with only her pink goggles on her forehead as an indication of where she was in the pool. There was no splashing, no screaming, no arms waving, it was a silent scene. I saw my husband (her father) frantically trying to get to her, but unfortunately by the time he reached her she was unconscious and no longer breathing. In just 19 seconds. I watched in horror as he laid her down next to the pool, her body seemed lifeless. My husband who is a GP, and two other friends, a doctor and a nurse, were all tending to her as I knelt next to my little girl, my hands over my face because I could not bear to see what was unfolding in front of me. Moments before they would start CPR, she began to scream on her own. I held her, and could never imagine letting her go again. She recovered very rapidly and was eating lollies from the party bags within 30 minutes, but we were lucky. So so lucky. If my husband had been distracted for even 5 more seconds, or couldn’t spot her in that sea of playing children, a different ending may have resulted.

The days to follow were full of both tremendous pain for my husband and I from the guilt and the “what ifs,” as well as tremendous gratefulness that she was still here. We became immediately proactive, as I didn’t want any of us to be carrying this fear and trauma into the future. We knew the first step was to get her back into the water as soon as possible. As it turns out, my triathlon coach, Bill Evans, is also a children’s swim instructor @ C-Me Swim in Cairns, so I turned to him for advice. He and Rachel Kranz (@C-Me Swim) were incredible with my daughter and managed to encourage her back into the pool with enormous patience, kindness, and playfulness just 5 days after the incident. By the end of the session, my little fish didn’t even want to get out of the pool with “Mr. Bill.” What a relief! In January both kids will begin swimming lessons @ C-Me Swim.

My daughter is 3.5 years old, and since I have begun working, finding time to continue with her swimming lessons has been difficult, and I admit, not a priority. The lesson I take from this, is a message that I have already heard a million trillion times before, but didn’t take so seriously until now:

SWIMMING LESSONS ARE A PRIORITY. It is the only tool we can give our children to self-equip them for those moments when we are distracted and they are curious. You WILL BE distracted, and it will likely be for more than 19 seconds. It will happen to even the most vigilant of parents and the most obedient of children. No one is immune to what has happened to us. Equip your kids the best that you can. You see…I only saw a paddling pool, cake, and presents. I didn’t think for a moment that at my own son’s birthday party, where I had thought out EVERY single detail beforehand, that I would have nearly lost my daughter in a drowning incident. SUPERVISION requirements change depending on our environment. It turns out my daughter was sufficiently supervised for a quieter scenario, but given this busy birthday party at a busy public pool, both of my kids were under-supervised and at risk.

I hope that our story is a learning opportunity for us all.

*Thanks again to Bill @Will Swim and Tri Coaching and Rachel @C-Me Swim for helping us get back in the water.

My Gorgeous & Curious Little Girl @ Palm Cove, QLD Australia

13 thoughts on “When it happens to you

    1. Thank you so much for that! Shame and judgement are probably the biggest hurdles to overcome when needing to share such a personal tragedy, so thank you so much for your feedback x


  1. I have 8yo, 7yo and 5yo… We have pool in our backyard. A constant real-life concern. Thankfully they are all confident in the water now. The distractions are always there and they aren’t negligent distractions, just regular everyday ones. Take care Mumma and dadda… Guilt does not belong in your world 💓

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you so much sharing, I know it wasn’t easy to do, my cousin is reluctant to share his sons story because of some negativity that was directed at him which isn’t fair at all as my cousin wasn’t present at the incident … my lil cousin was at a local swimming pool in Tasmania with his mum and sister, whilst his mum was attending to his sister, my lil cousin sat on the edge of the pool and tried to put his own flippers on, working out they were on the wrong feet he pulled one off which flipped him silently backwards into the pool, no splashing or screaming just like your lil one … my lil cousin was pulled from the pool by a member of the public as his mum had frozen in panic, he clinically drowned and was revived but was unconscious for 17 minutes total, any parents nightmare the emergency services did not give up and kept trying to bring him back … my lil cousin spent the next three months on paediatric ICU in Melbourne and had several operations and finally a pacemaker fitted due to the damage he sustained to his heart … there was concern for brain damage as well but so far 4 years down the track there are no other complications other than the pacemaker …. he is the same bright, bubbly happy go lucky kid and just as adventurous as before … he too had swimming lessons and was back into the water as soon as he was able, with his rehab team at the hospital:)

    I myself have even saved two kids from drowning in a backyard pool during a NYE party, will never forget the kids faces or the shock on their dads face either

    So glad your lil one is OK and still loves the water xxoo


  3. As grand parents we know as you have [are married to ] one of our successful educational efforts on pool safety and swimming !
    We are also aware of the ignorance of other parents who let their children invade you home through locked pool gates to take a swim in your/our pool
    You are helpless when you are not there and they are swimming in your pool !


  4. Wow thank you for sharing!

    I can’t swim myself, so I never take our three (8, 6, and 3) to the pool alone as I know I’d be useless in an emergency, and when we moved to QLD it was a non-negotiable that our house must NOT have a pool. It just scares me too much.

    So happy it turned out well for you and your little girl.


  5. Thanks for sharing. Vigilance tends to slip over time, and this is a very poignant reminder that you can never be too cautious around a pool with young children.


  6. I have for the past ten years been working on a swimming pool alarm system that will help prevent events like these. I am pleased to say the my alarm, the dolphin aquasonic will be available to buy early 2017. I finalised the design in conjunction with a leading U.K. university.
    I am confident that over the next few years my alarm system will help prevent a number of accidental drownings. For my USA friends the alarm is not the same as the Safety Turtle and operates on a better and more secure technology.
    You can view the new alarm on our website dolphinalarms.com.


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