Sunday, June 13, 2010

Swimming, Reminiscing and the start of summer...

I've been thinking a lot about life lately.

It is one of those things that you sometimes don't think about until you have a moment to rest and you just think about everything. Well, life is precious. I cannot even begin to tell you how precious life is.

As I write this my pregnancy hormones are making me a bit weepy...I'll blame it on that. But really, all I can say is life is precious.

470724098705

(above picture from summer 2009)

Eleven months ago on July 13, 2009 I almost lost my daughter. It was one of the scariest moments in my life. It was the worst moment in my life. No one, no one can ever understand unless you were there...unless you have been there. And, I hope for your sake you never have experienced this and never will.

I think Vegas gets it a little but he was not there. I am actually very thankful he wasn't around because no one needs this image...no one needs this scar. It is the one image that always flashes before my eyes...the image of her under the water...her eyes are open, she's moving like you wouldn't imagine...and she's silently screaming "help me Momma"...she was helpless. Absolutely helpless.

So, let me start the story. I've always been a swimmer. I grew up with a pool in the back yard and I loved to swim. The summer was filled with pool parties and bbqs and the rest of the year was filled with swimming and lessons at one of the local centers. I have always been told, "Whatever you do teach your kids to swim..." I never thought anything of it.

The subdivision we live in has a pool. We were members...we had been members every year that we lived here. Last year, they were offering swim lessons for the kids and I thought what a good idea. Gator could learn something and meet some other kids in the neighborhood.

Wrong.

The swim lessons were a week long and started on a Monday morning. That first day, that first Monday...there were probably twelve kids in the class, two teachers and a lifeguard (who wasn't present until later in the lesson).

You think that's enough? It isn't. But I didn't know that then...I do now.

I was sitting there watching the swim lesson. Everything seemed to be going okay. They divided the group of chidlren up and Gator was at the point where she was sitting on the stairs with three other kids (some a little older, some a little younger), the teachers were teaching and all of a sudden she wasn't there.

I ran to the edge of the pool...she was under the water. I screamed to the lifeguards, to the teachers...to anyone that would listen, they weren't moving fast enough so holding my 9 month old baby in my arms I jumped in to save my almost 3 year old (not even 2 weeks shy of her third birthday). I pulled her out of the water...she coughed, gagged, spit up water...she was shaking, crying hysterically and completely unaware of what happened and why it happened.

I held her.

Thankfully one of my neighbors was there to hold Peanut. She unfortunately saw the entire thing too. The lifeguards/teachers took their time getting out of the pool, they didn't do much. They were still teaching...they still had eleven other children to care for.

Most of this next part is a blurr...but I do know several people came up to me...people that were in charge of the pool, other lifeguards, parents and neighbors that had been there, that saw what happened with their own eyes. But those teachers...they took their time.

I never got an apology from those teachers or lifeguards. From other people at the pool, the guy in charge, the main lifeguard...yes...but not from them.

I was dripping wet with two kids, crying hysterically because I saw things that I didn't want to see flash in front of my eyes. Little did I know what I saw would flash in front of my eyes for months to come...it is my nightmare. It will always be my nightmare.

Anyways, I ended up taking her to the pediatrician immediately. I was dripping wet. All three of us were dripping wet. The pediatrician was so wonderful and calm but worried about the sound of her heart, how long she had been under water (we didn't know an exact time), if she had swallowed any water, etc. We were then sent to a cardiologist and thankfully things did turn out okay. But, it is something I never wanted to experience...

I'm telling you this story because it changed my life. I will not let anyone I don't trust (and even those I do) take my children near water. I don't do the beach unless I'm there and can control the situation. I don't like to be near water unless I know it is safe. It took me awhile to get back to the pool...it took me awhile to feel safe. Come to think of it, I still don't feel safe...I feel safer, but not safe.

I finally, after many prayers, found an answer that I felt was right...private lessons. I am a huge advocate for private lessons for little children. And, if you're in the area and looking for someone let me know because I can send you in the right direction.

It is only now after having spoken with other people who are very involved in the swimming community that I understand children at such a young age should NOT be in group lessons.

At the end of last summer I started Gator in private lessons...while I had planned to continue lessons through the year I never did. This summer, she is swimming again with the help of the same private instructor.

I'll be the first to tell you it isn't cheap (but it is affordable), you won't find a deal like that of your local swimming pool or YMCA...but life is precious and priceless.

Until Gator can swim enough to save her life (getting from one side to another, getting to the wall, treading water) OR until she can breathe with both her mouth and nose above water -- she will not be in a group setting. I will consider semi-private lessons this fall at a program that was recommended to me last year but I will not have her in a large setting. People have two hands. That's how many children one instructor should have at the most when you have young children that cannot swim. There should always be a life guard on a duty when you have more then one child. You should never have other things going on in the pool (like swim team practice -- it was happening at our pool that day last year. I'm sure that's why the lifeguards were distracted. But it wasn't the reason they had twelve children in a swim lesson with two instructors.)

I urge you to think about swimming lessons for your little one this summer. It is the one thing that can save your child's life (and yours). I also ask that you watch your children near water at all times, do not leave them alone even for a moment. You never know how quickly things can happen.

This is my story...my nightmare, the thing that flashes in front of me everytime someone says "let's go to the beach" "let's go to the pool" "let's go to water country" "let's go to great wolfe lodge"...

Here are some pictures of Gator this summer swimming...(actually these are taken in Texas so the start of our swim season!)

IMG_3633

SHE

IMG_3636

IS

IMG_3629

AMAZING!

This year has been amazing and at times like this I am reminded just how precious life is. There are lots of "what ifs" that float through my head...and, when push comes to shove...all I can say is I am just so thankful things turned out okay...so thankful I was there and watching her. So very, very thankful I didn't lose her that day...

Remember...life is precious...give your little one a squeeze! Teach water safety!

5 comments:

KirstyB said...

Wow Jen...this especially hits home as we lost a little friend in a drowning accident last weekend. I am heartbroken for his family and I can't even begin to imagine the pain they are feeling. I am so glad that you were close by when this happened to Gator last year. Hugs to you all!!

NuthinLikeGatorMama said...

(((hugs))) I remember the phone calls I got... I remember not at all understanding right away what happened. This all happened about a month before Christian fell in his family pool and nearly died. He's never going to be the Christian he was..
I'm glad that Gator is still Gator, and I'm glad she stresses you out and I'm glad she's swimming!!
<3

mum2abby said...

Kirsty, I'm so sorry about your friend and his family. I'm sure this is a very hard time for everyone. I'll keep them in my prayers. <3

FourJedis said...

Kirsty, that's so sad. Jen, I am so, so relieved that Gator is here and healthy. Reading the story over a year later is just as emotional as the first time. I don't even trust my husband taking my kids to the pool (nor myself, for that matter... I always bring an extra hand).

The Austin Family said...

It never ceases to amaze me all the the things you have endured and overcome. I am so thankful your precious baby girl was ok...and I will pray for continued peace and healing in overcoming such a terrible trauma. In fact, praying for you guys even now, as we saw the FB post.