In the United States from 2005-2014, there was an average of 3,536 unintentional (or accidental) drownings each year. This statistic doesn’t include boating related incidents; boating occurrences add an additional 332 drownings per year. To put it in perspective, that is roughly 10 victims per day. One in five of these drowning victims is under the age of 14 years old. For those that do survive to receive emergency care, many are left with permanent brain damage that can include memory issues, learning disabilities, or end up in a permanent vegetative state (CDC, 2016).
What does this look like from a medical provider’s standpoint?
It’s devastating. The victims that survive are often left with permanent disabilities from an anoxic brain injury. This means that the brain is without vital oxygen long enough to kill irreplaceable brain cells. As an ICU nurse, I can tell you it is truly heartbreaking to care for a person that is a shell of who they once were. Many victims require mechanical ventilation to breathe, as the injury to their brains affects the area that controls this basic function. These patients are bed bound, fed artificially, and incontinent.
The saddest part? Most of the time, the accidents that caused these devastating injuries are preventable.
Programs provided by certified instructors through programs like Infant Swimming Resource (ISR) (for children 6 months to 6 years) and American Red Cross (for children and adults ages 7 and up) are another layer of defense to prevent drowning. These swimming courses can provide children and adults with valuable skills when barriers like pool fences and supervision fail. If a family cannot afford these lifesaving lessons, there are organizations such as Hand in Hand and Live Like Jake which provide scholarships.
When lives are at stake, every precaution should be taken to avoid becoming a statistic.
Centers for Disease Control. (2016, April 28). Unintentional drowning: get the facts. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/water-safety/waterinjuries-factsheet.html
About the Author
Meghan Bergman is a nurse in the trauma/neuro/surgical ICU at Moses Cone Hospital. After 7 years in nursing, she recently completed her Doctor of Nursing Practice and will sit for boards in the next month to be a certified nurse practitioner. She is married with 3 children, ages 10, 6, and 3. She became involved with Hand in Hand through her children's swimming lessons at Safe Swim NC Specialized Aquatic Training. Her family loves to go to the pool in the summer and boasts that Darlene (Executive Director) and Angela (Board President) have done so much for her children’s confidence in the water.