What will you do if a child screams, "Help! This kid’s drowned!" and you’re the only adult who hears that call? In my lifetime of being in and around water - creeks, ponds, rivers, lakes, pools - I’ve heard that frantic call only one time!
The boy who yelled was pressing a friend’s limp body against the side of a swimming pool in deep water. One hand was pulling the unconscious child’s hair, trying to lift his face above the surface. From the deck, I yanked the child out and began artificial respiration while screaming at the top of my voice, "Help me! Get a doctor! Call an ambulance! Get dry towels! Lots of dry towels! Get his parents!"
Soon Joe, a fellow from my life-saving class, knelt beside me and helped.
Why do I write about this Michigan mishap of the 1940s? You might be the first or only one to hear, "Help! This kid’s drowned!"
Death or permanent damage will not wait. A non-breathing person must have air within three minutes of the last inhalation if he’s to be revived to normal or near normal breathing.
Joe and I moved the child to a dry spot and wrapped his blue body - the color of faded blue jeans - without breaking the rhythm of artificial respiration. We had learned that in his lifesaving class.
When his body began to stiffen and buckle, I prayed aloud, "Oh no, not rigor mortis!" and kept respirations going. Suddenly his body buckled convulsively; water and vomit sprayed everywhere, and his arms and legs floundered uncontrollably. Joe held the child’s head, and I sat astride his thighs and held his shoulders down with my hands. He was alive!
That happened before people everywhere learned the most effective artificial respiration known.
If you hear the call, you’ll do the Heimlich maneuver - the one for choking, the one you learned in grade school! Drowning is "choking on water!"
Don’t try to blow air into water-filled lungs! If it goes anyplace, it’ll be to a wrong place. Drowning people are choking on water. Do the Heimlich maneuver.
In 10 seconds, with just four "maneuvers," the lungs will be cleared of water. Nothing else you can do will clear water from lungs.
Practice the Heimlich this day!
It’s in your dictionary; look in the "H" section for "Heimlich!"
"Air is forced up the windpipe by applying sudden sharp pressure to the abdomen, just below the rib cage."
Ninety-seven percent of 152 unconscious, non-breathing drowning victims recovered fully when the Heimlich maneuver was used to help them.
If you encounter a drowning person, have someone else call 911 - but don’t you waste time with that! Stay with the victim. You might be needed.
If a conscious swimmer needs help and you have access to a broom, life jacket, stick, flutter board or oar, swim out with it and let him grab that object instead of grabbing you, then move promptly toward shore, towing the swimmer who was in trouble. Make sure that you are in no danger.
A drowning person is sometimes suddenly transformed into a wild, vicious animal with one objective: Get air!
Consider the familiar expression, "Like a drowning person grabbing at a straw." A drowning person might grab for everything and everyone within his reach, and he or she might attempt to hang on to the person who is making the rescue.
Don’t forget to protect yourself from the frightened person whose life you are saving.