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Caution: Children Swimming
Protecting Your Family from Summer Tragedy


Caution: Children Swimming - Protecting Your Family from Summer Tragedy

Learn more about self-closing pool gates by visiting Guardian Pool Fence Systems, Inc.

Locate a CPR certification course in your area by visiting the official website of the Red Cross.

If you are a parent or know anyone who has children, we ask that you please read this story. This request is not an attempt at sensationalism or the melodramatic. The truth is that by reading and forwarding this article, you may just save a life and, at the same time, spare countless people from the pain one family nearly experienced. What you are about to read is their story.

While on the phone with my 10-year old son, Paul, I heard a scream and then nothing. Concerned for the safety of my family, I called back only to hear Paul answer the phone, crying inconsolably. The only words I could make out were "Sterling", "dead", and "pool". After a few moments, he said, "Dad, I have to call 911!" The line went dead.

My name is Jim Sahnger, and I am the editor of YOU Magazine. In March of this year, my youngest son Sterling, 13-months old at the time, nearly drowned in my family's backyard swimming pool.

I had left my home not 30 minutes prior. Surely I had misunderstood Paul. Surely this was a mistake. The drive home was one of my longest ever. Thoughts ranging from "How could this happen?" to "I can't believe my son just died," went through my head.

While pulling up to the house, I began looking for confirmation that what I'd heard on the phone was a mistake. The pit that developed in my stomach was indescribable as I saw over ten emergency vehicles parked in front. They all had one purpose, to save my son's life.

Sterling had crawled through an open door to a pool deck where the pool barrier gate had been left opened. He inevitably made it to the pool and fell in.

I have a responsible, very attentive family and thought that we were always aware of Sterling's whereabouts. If this could happen to us, it could happen to you or someone you know and love.

We were lucky. Paul had seen Sterling floating in the pool after he'd been in an estimated two and a half minutes. In just 30 more seconds, Sterling could have experienced irreparable brain damage; and after a few more minutes, we could have lost him forever.

Sterling was released from the hospital after seven hours and multiple tests to determine if he'd suffered any harm from the lack of oxygen. To see Sterling today, you would never know what took place that day in March.

Every year unfortunate families across America suffer the loss of a child under the age of five to a drowning. The Centers for Disease Control reports that approximately 800 children die each year and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission states that over 2,000 children are treated annually for nearly drowning. Several things can be done to prevent those you care about from becoming a part of these statistics. The tips you're about to read apply to everyone with young children, but they're especially relevant to those who own a pool of any size.

  • Install a self-closing pool gate. This is first and foremost for any pool owner. It can act as a final barrier between a little one who gets out of the house and your pool. Considering its modest the price, this may be the single best investment a family with a pool can make. Rigid pool covers are also a great tool, but they should be used in conjunction with the self-closing gate.

  • Prepare yourself for emergencies by having every family member who's reached the appropriate age certified in CPR.

  • Keep a phone by the pool in case someone needs to call 911. This will save a lot of time during a worst case scenario.

  • Clear the pool and surrounding area of any toys which may attract toddlers. Be sure to include pool cleaners that look like toys on your list.

  • Equip your home's back door and pool gate with a buzzer that sounds when opened. You can also buy alarms which float in the pool and sound any time the water is disturbed.

  • Be extremely wary of any plastic or inflatable pools as well. These, for the most part, are un-gated and carry a huge risk. The tendency is to fill them up and keep them filled. It is assumed that if the child can stand up in the water, they'll be OK. This doesn't take into account what may happen if a child panics. It is advised to drain these types of pools after every use. It only takes several inches of water for a child to drown.

If your family does not own a pool, your child's water safety still requires due diligence. It's not enough to simply know where children are at all times. Whether you're at the beach, lake, or a pool, keep your child within arm's reach. Do not rely on babysitters to do this, or anyone else for that matter. Keep your child close to you.

It is also a good idea to choose your swimming locations carefully. On-duty lifeguards are a plus but should not be relied upon completely. Keep a close eye on waves and current conditions as they can easily pull a child under water.

Swimming lessons are a good idea but can provide a false sense of security for those with younger children. Revisit lessons every summer until you are 100% sure your child is a competent swimmer.

While it's popular to forward jokes, funny videos and other information to family and friends, we encourage you to forward this story for a different reason. The purpose is not to make someone laugh but rather to potentially help save lives.


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