The waves were a little rough, so I insisted that Gabe, my almost 9-year-old, swim with a buddy. He is a very strong swimmer so he was pretty upset that I didn't trust him to swim solo. Little did I know that decision would probably save his life.
It was almost time to go, and Gabe wanted to get back in the water one last time. He wanted me to swim with him. We got in and I could tell it had gotten rougher since earlier that day. I'm a pretty strong swimmer so it didn't bother me too much, but suddenly I realized Gabe wasn't with me. I looked back and he was very still. He was in the water with his face up, his mouth was open and it kept going under the water. He let out a gurgled "help" but by that time I was on my way to him. When I got there I realized that the water was very deep, even though it was pretty close to the shore. I couldn't touch either, and I realized I have no idea how to help my son. I'm not a life guard! I did the only thing I could think of, which was grab him, take a deep breath, and hold him as I high as I could above the water while I went under. Then I just grabbed him and swam as fast as I could with one arm to the shore. When we got there I hugged him so tight as I realized what had just happened. He said, "mom I'm ok" and I said "yes, but I'm not."
How could I have been so close to losing my boy?
What if I hadn't been right there? What if I hadn't realized the signs? I recently read an article about drowning and how it doesn't look like drowning in the movies. It really doesn't! Here is what the website says to look out for:
- 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
- Appear to be climbing an invisible ladder.
Gabe's head was low in the water, his mouth at water level, head tilted back, and his hair was over his eyes. He was totally vertical. And still.
I don't know if writing this will help anyone, maybe it'll help me. I can't get the image of my son drowning out of my head. I'm beyond thankful that he is safe. But I can't stop wondering what if?