WATER SAFETY FROM A MEDICAL PERSPECTIVE: DOCTORS AND NURSES WEIGH IN ON DROWNING
Apr 18, 2019 | By: Hand In Hand Water Safety
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.
Dr. Burke Thompson, a trauma surgeon at Moses Cone Hospital, states, “It takes less than a minute for a child, or anyone for that matter, to get into a drowning situation. Having lifesaving skills, like CPR and rescue swimming, are important, but prevention is better. Fences around pools, life jackets on boats, and not swimming alone are key.”
Amanda Mounce, a pediatric nurse practitioner at Kernersville Sports Complex, builds on Dr. Thompson’s sentiments, “Young children should receive constant, close supervision by an adult while in and around water, including the bathtub, toilet, irrigation ditches, or other open standing water. Parents should not rely on lifeguards and personal flotation devices to protect their children but should be within an arm’s length of their children, providing 'touch supervision'.”
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.
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.