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Old 11-07-2010, 08:48   #1
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Drowning: TV vs Reality

This info may be old news here but, I did not see the topic raised. I just read a fascinating article on what signs to look for when a person is drowning by a former Coast Guard rescue swimmer Mario Vittone. I've posted the link on my blog:
THE BIANKA LOG BLOG: DROWNING: TV vs. REALITY
Really opened my eyes to what to look for. An example:

"So if a crew member falls overboard and every(thing) looks O.K. – don’t be too sure. Sometimes the most common indication that someone is drowning is that they don’t look like they’re drowning. They may just look like they are treading water and looking up at the deck. One way to be sure? Ask them: “Are you alright?” If they can answer at all – they probably are. If they return a blank stare – you may have less than 30 seconds to get to them. And parents: children playing in the water make noise. When they get quiet, you get to them and find out why."

I think it's a must read for boaters and beach goers alike. It really brought home to me how a person can drown with thousands of people on the beach watching them including the lifeguards.

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Old 11-07-2010, 10:57   #2
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Its definitely a good thing you posted here Mike and thanks! It may just save a life. I just want to add, please put a PFD on yourself and especially your children, so that the good information Mike posted is not necessary to know in the first place.
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Old 11-07-2010, 22:03   #3
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Thanks. I thought it was a must read. Since I often sail alone I always wear a PFD when sailing even when I have crew too. Though often the closest thing to having crew on board is Otto my autohelm and it does not seem to care if I'm on board or not. Seriously, though I'm very comfortable in the water and swim three or four times a day off the boat. But, a lot of other people are not that comfortable in the water. I think the statistic is that half of all Americans don't know how to swim. So maybe you invite a couple on board your boat for drinks. Later a little tipsy one or both may slip into the water when leaving. I would come up from the dunk laughing but, others who can't swim might have a different reaction that may not at first look like the waving arms panic we have been trained by the media to believe a drowning person would use. In fact try it next time you are in the water. Start waving your hands above your head. I suspect your head would sink below the surface fairly quickly. That's why as the article points out drowning people don't do it.

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Old 12-07-2010, 08:53   #4
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Great post Mike, thank you so much for sharing that!

Like many, I'm sure, we had no idea that "drowning does not look like drowning". Even in my SCUBA training we weren't told this, although we were warned about how a drowning person will attempt to "climb" you.

I've posted the link to the original article on my facebook page to share it with everyone I know. Valuable information!
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Old 12-07-2010, 09:24   #5
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at 3 my baby sister jumped into the deep end of the pool when she saw all the older kids playing in the water.

she began the actions he describes and no one standing near her or anyone in the water realized she couldn't swim. There were people 2' from her who couldn't tell she was drowning.

My dad spotted her from across the pool at the shallow end and took 2 running steps and was across the pool in one long underwater stroke and came up under her and brought her to the surface of the water.

and she just laughed and said 'I swimming Daddy'.

She started swim lessons the next week and is a fish to this day.

my dad's wingtips and watch were never the same and his best suit was ruined. my sisters party dress survived and so did she so my mom didn't scold dad too much ; -)

but yeah, there were a hundred and fifty people at that party and packed around the deck like sardines and no one other than my dad could tell she was drowning.
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Old 12-07-2010, 12:08   #6
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Thanks Capt. Mike!!!
Essential reading ➥ Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning
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Old 12-07-2010, 13:34   #7
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Excellent artiticle. I'm a strong swimmer and been around water all my life and know non-swimmers can drown in 30 sec. I didn't know why. I saved my baby sister at the age of three after she rode her tricycle into the pool, also at a party, just because I knew she couln't swim. I will never forget the look on her face.
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Old 20-08-2010, 03:06   #8
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In cold water, even strong swimmers can lose muscle control and swimming ability within 10 minutes or less. Without a life preserver... then they're out of time.
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Old 20-08-2010, 06:58   #9
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Unless you plan to spend your entire life in a desert, swimming is as essential a skill as walking. If you have a kid, teach them to swim (or better yet, put them in swimming lessons under an experienced instructor). If you don't know how to swim yourself, learn how- many community pools offer adult classes.

As a former lifeguard, I am all too aware that Mario's article is bang on- someone in trouble isn't distinguished by flailing and screaming, but by quietly slipping below the surface. If you're responsible for kids or other people in the water, you cannot let your attention wander. Do a head count of your group every fifteen seconds or so. Test everyone's swimming abilities under controlled conditions before you head out beyond help's reach. Be smart about lifejackets. And learn how to deal with someone who is in trouble- just swimming over and grabbing them doesn't work, there are specific techniques you must learn to keep you safe during the rescue.
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Old 20-08-2010, 15:02   #10
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I think another detail is that even trained lifeguards are wary of rescues and realize the danger involved, especially in situations with open, rough water, limited visibility, or a large, panicked swimmer. "Reach, throw, row" must come before the "go". And no ordinary level of swimming skill is likely to save someone in cold water without protective equipment and more than a few minutes from safety.
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Old 20-08-2010, 15:31   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rgscpat View Post
...no ordinary level of swimming skill is likely to save someone in cold water without protective equipment and more than a few minutes from safety.
Bang on. Most of the drownings we've had in Ontario this year involved people who could swim. The problem is that the Great Lakes are very cold, even at this time of year. You don't freeze to death in ten minutes, but you're too cold & tired to swim anymore.

From TheChilling Truth About Cold Water

"In Canada, between 1991 and 2000, 41% of those who were boating and drowned were within 10 meters of shore. An additional 22% were within 10 to 15 meters of shore."
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Old 20-08-2010, 16:19   #12
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With obvious exceptions such as Channel swimmers, who train and prepare especially for cold-water swimming, most people who fall into cold water without flotation and nearby rescue are goners. "Cold Water Boot Camp" (Cold Water Boot Camp) and various sea-kayaking groups have some great presentations on line.

Essentially, people who experience cold water pass through four stages, any of which can be lethal:
(1) first minute -- cold water shock, gasp reflex, hyperventilation up to 10x normal rate, likelihood of swallowing or inhaling water (a moderate amount can cause breathing failure via suffocation or pneumonia), difficulty in keeping airway above water, possibility of cardiac arrest.
(2) next 10 minutes or so -- loss of muscle feedback and fine muscle control, loss of gross muscle control, swim failure, exhaustion, drowning.
(3) next hour or more -- incapacitation and unconsciousness due to hypothermia (remember the 50-50-50 rules; 50% chance of death on average after 50 minutes in 50 degree water; survival time varies with body type, water temp., etc.).
(4) post-shock collapse -- circulatory collapse or loss of consciousness at some time after rescue.
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Old 29-11-2010, 13:56   #13
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Interesting views from people who have seen almost-drownings, so I thought I'd add some perspective from the other side. I am not a very good swimmer and have almost drowned twice. The first time at age 17 in the Wave Pool at Astroworld in Texas. I was on a mat at the deep end surrounded by people and knocked off the mat. I couldn't get control in the surf and started panicking. I continued thrashing, trying to keep my head above water and at no point ever yelled out--I was too busy trying not to drown. I was about done for when someone grabbed me and pulled me up. I am sure I would have drowned otherwise.

The next time was last year (age 44) in Barbados snorkeling a shallow reef with about four inches of water under my belly. I got water in my mask, which I absolutely cannot tolerate. I couldn't get vertical to clear it because of the sharp reef under me and I couldn't open my eyes. So now I was blind in the water attempting to get to shore, only about 30-40 yards away and it took every ounce of energy I had to get back. At some times I was heading away from shore after getting turned around. If I had been a little farther out when I had trouble, I may not have had the strength to make it back and would have drowned in only a few feet of water. By the time I cleared the reef and hit shallow, unobstructed water, all I could do was crawl to the beach. I fell exhausted in the sand and lay here about ten minutes before I could move again.

My point here is that what people see and mistake for water play could well be a person's struggle for survival. After that, the drowning is quick an silent.

An observer would have only seen a clumsy swimmer going in circles in the surf since I was again unable to signal or yell or do anything but struggle onward for as long as I could. I definitely was not doing any traditional drowning behavior.

I hate being unable to open my eyes under water...I keep going in though.
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Old 29-11-2010, 14:09   #14
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in cold water the hypothermia will get you before the drowning stage kicks in. you will look tired and non responsive. even if you ARE a good swimmer.
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Old 01-12-2010, 01:42   #15
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Exclamation No, you will drown first!

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in cold water the hypothermia will get you before the drowning stage kicks in. you will look tired and non responsive. even if you ARE a good swimmer.
No, actually you have it backwards. In cold water you will drown first.

It has been rather conclusively demonstrated that in cold water, most people without a life jacket drown. They don't die from hypothermia. In cold water, swim failure occurs in 5-15 minutes, even for a very strong swimmer. If you have floatation, it will take at least a half hour (usually an hour or more) before you become unconcious from hypthermia. "Swim Failure" (due to chilling of your limbs) will cause you to drown long before your core body temperature approaches hypothermia.

For some graphic demostrations, see the links:
Cold Water Boot Camp (Cold Water Boot Camp - Canada)

Cold Water Boot Camp, 10 Minute Feature on Vimeo (The US version of Cold Water Boot Camp)

University of Manitoba: U of M - Kinesiology and Recreation Management - Health, Leisure, And Human Performance Research Institute - Dr. Gordon Giesbrecht
Giesbrecht (AKA "Professor Popsicle") has become one of the worlds leading authorities on hypothermia. He experiments on himself! In particular take a look at the link to "Cold Water Survival - Strategies for survival if you fall through the ice" for a graphic demonstration of how long it takes to become truely hypothermic even in much colder water than most of us sail on.

If you are more inclined to dead tree print reading, take a look at: "Hypothermia, Frostbite, and other Cold Injuries" by Giesbrecht & Wilkerson (2006, Mountaineers Books).
Or:
"Essentials of Sea Survival" by Golden & Tipton (2002, Human Kinetics).
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