There’s a lifesaving device in the trunk of every vehicle, and there’s almost always a vehicle near when someone yells, "Help! That person is drowning!" He’s trying to keep his head up to get one more gulp of oxygen; he’s also gulping water and sinking a little lower, exhausted.
You gather your wits together and fly into action. You grab the car keys, unlock the trunk and get the spare wheel from its mounting. You roll it running, guiding it to the water’s edge and into the water. The air inside makes the heavy thing float. You swim and push that wheel out toward the troubled swimmer.
He’s vertical in the water with head stretched far back to gasp for air; he has swallowed a lot of water and hangs low, his mouth and nose above the surface now and then.
"Hang in there, fellow," you call as you come closer and extend the wheel within his reach.
You grab one wrist and put his hand on the wheel. Coughing helps him get air. He coughs and gasps for breath.
"You’re OK! Don’t talk, just rest."
In a few minutes, he sees you, and he realizes that he’s clinging to that heavy floating wheel. He doesn’t know that it protected you and that you saved his life.
You signal to a passing boat, and it circles, comes in slowly and tosses you a line, and you hold the weak swimmer against the wheel as you are towed in at slow speed. If there’s no passing boat, you head for safety, kicking your legs and stroking with one arm, resting when you’re tired. You didn’t risk your own life; you simply pushed a floating tire and wheel through the water. You "think" a prayer. This human being who was so near death is alive!
If you found him unconscious and not breathing, you’ll have to get his hands on the wheel and hold them there.
"Near death" is the condition of all who are not breathing, and when the airway is blocked by water or by a tough chunk of steak, the skin turns a pale blue color from lack of oxygen. Permanent brain damage begins in only three minutes from the time of his or her last intake of air.
Believe it or not, there’s good news about drowning! The immediate care for a person brought out of the water not breathing is to do the Heimlich maneuver at once. The thoracic surgeon who developed it intended it for both choking and drowning. The maneuver is effective in many different positions, the most likely one being with the drowning victim flat on his or her back. For infants not breathing, use rapid pressures with two fingers on each hand, with the baby on your lap or a table.
Applying four strong pressures, in six to nine seconds, causes the drowning victim’s diaphragm to press on the lungs and send the water gushing out of the mouth, and he or she resumes breathing. Locate the navel, place one hand on the abdomen above the navel, and put your second hand over the first. Apply four strong pressures: "One, two, three, four," giving an extra little push forward, toward the head, at the end of each. It can be done in shallow water when the rescuer has firm footing.
Professional lifeguards, recently trained at Hickman Pool, can use "subdiaphragmic pressures" today! Their past experience with that is that it is overwhelmingly successful. If you swim independently, play with a tire in your pool. Then you’ll have a double whammy against drowning.