Mom Wants Parents to Recognize the Lesser-Known Signs of Drowning
The Indiana mom shared that although she thought her 5-year-old was playing a breath-holding game, he was actually drowning.
Last week, a mom from Indiana faced a nightmare that dwells in the back of every parent's mind when their little one is swimming. Her 5-year-old son Adam drowned. "He looked like he was PLAYING," Maribeth Leeson said in a Facebook post that has wracked up 231K shares since she shared it on July 23. "When I found him myself, 2 feet from adults who were in the pool, my first thought was that it wasn't him, that it was someone else’s kid who was seeing how long they could hold their breath."
She explained that this "happened in a pool full of people. A pool full of ADULTS." Leeson noted, "I've read so many stories about kids slipping away from their parents and getting into a pool, to be found drowned shortly later. I've never considered the possibility that my child could drown right in front of people who were watching him bob up and down from the bottom of the pool to just below the surface, but didn't think he was struggling ... I can 100% understand why the adults who were RIGHT THERE didn't recognize that he was drowning because when I saw him, I too thought he was just a kid who was playing. What tipped me off was the kid I saw was wearing a shirt: Adam had gotten in the pool in his shirt. He doesn't know how to hold his breath. GET HIM OUT!!!! THAT'S ADAM!!!!"
The 5-year-old was pulled from the pool, appearing "limp, gray, lifeless...every mother's worst nightmare," Leeson wrote. "He was dead," she shared. "I heard screaming, and after a minute realized the screaming was coming from me. I watched in slow motion as people rushed to him, as he was laid on the concrete, as CPR was started."
As a million horrified thoughts raced through her head, she says she "ran over to where CPR continued on my precious baby." She didn't know how much time had passed. "I ran to him and watched and cried and talked to him as my friend tirelessly and relentlessly continued CPR," Leeson wrote. "He looked awful and perfect still at the same time. I watched as water and vomit poured out of his mouth, eyes swollen and rubbery looking. Then a miracle happened! I don't remember what it was first, but he showed some sign of life because several people at the same time exclaimed 'there he is!' and encouraged me to keep talking to him."
The little one was eventually taken by an ambulance to Peyton Manning Children's Hospital in Indianapolis, where he spent just three days in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit before returning home.
Leeson said she hoped sharing what happened might prevent it from happening to someone else. "Before going to any pool, first make sure your kids know not to get in until the adult who is responsible for them is ready to watch them," she wrote. "That sounds like common sense, but I was thinking because so many adults were present, he was fine, but those adults didn't know his swimming ability so they didn't question when he was under water."
She also wants parents to be aware of "the signs of struggle," explaining, "Adam didn't look like he was struggling! He wasn't splashing, thrashing, or screaming. He was simply underwater and couldn't get his head above water."
Leeson further advised parents to know CPR. "I do know CPR," she wrote. "Could I have performed it in that moment? I like to believe I could have if I hadn't seen someone else taking charge. I like to think if I had been alone, my survival skills would have kicked in. Luckily, I don't know, because my amazing friend was busy saving him, but I do know that if I didn't know CPR, my helping him if we'd been alone wouldn't have even been a possibility."
Parents thanked Leeson for the reminder and offered words of support in the wake of this harrowing experience. "This goes to show no matter how strong you think they are accidents do happen," one commenter shared. "All children should learn to swim as early as possible. I am so pleased that this has had wonderful ending. We always take the blame for what happens to our children but we sadly don’t actually have eyes in the back of our heads." Another wrote, "Please let go of your guilt. You are an amazing mom, and by sharing this, you are going to save numerous children!"
Given that, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about one in five people who die from drowning are children 14 and younger, Leeson's warning is something all parents would do well to take note of.