Video of Instinctive Drowning Response

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By | 2017-05-18T15:29:50+00:00 July 28th, 2011|Boating Safety, Water Safety|83 Comments

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  • mcl

    this happened to me when I was a kid in a naval pool–and the pole there thought it was funny and were laughing and making jokes. when finally somebody pulled me out, I was completely exhausted.I can only remember all the jokes and laughter around me–and the anxiety that the incident never be reported, but from that time I simply cold never overcome my terror of swimming pools and never relearned to swim. People ridiculed me all my life for not knowing or not being able to swim, but having a bunch of people standing around beside you and not offering a hand or pulling you to safety is very traumatic experience. And as a kid, you’re too small nad helples to defend yourself and nobody believes you anyway–you cna say afterwards, I was drowning, why didn’t you help me? and what will come back is ridicule and jokes about how you could help yourself… and you can’t. You are just struggling desperately to stay on top of the water and get air into your lungs. later if you take swim classes or try to overcome this, you get abused by swim teachers, etc for being paranoid or whatever…is strange because I cna remember i could swim as a kid, but this incident and all the callousness, indifference an blindness to my plight completely traumatised me. It should have been reported to naval base or doctor summoned, but instead, it was treated like joke.

  • wjozier

    Wow! Thank you for this piece. i’m 72 and didn’t have a clue.

  • Ccleelee

    Just reading your story made me SO mad! The callousness of people, especially people who realize they just really screwed up, kills me. They would rather let a person suffer than do the right thing. And you were just a kid. I know I wasn’t there, but I’m sorry they did that to you.

  • mcl

    I think the naval officer who took us to th pool realized after I was pulled out how serious it was but was too terrified to call for assistance I don’t remember much after recovery except the drive back and all the jokes about me. I think what was harder were all the years afterwards of being ridiculed and heckled that I couldn’t swim an my repeated attempts to take swimming class to overcome the trauma only to be ridiculed and harassed as a sissy or coward and bullied by instructors. The mentality is pretty stupid. I had one instructor whose mentality was proclaimed that people ought just to be dumped in large deep body of water and ignored and then magically they would learn to swim– such mentality or attitude never belongs teaching in any place, but if you’re the student, there’s not much recourse but to endure the bullying or leave course. I left.

    People would abuse me and scream at me that I needed some kind of shrink or imaginary fears of hydrophobia, etc… and I’d just stare back in return. I don’t have hydrophobia. It has never bothered me to sit in sea water and let waves rip over my head . I can sit for hours in a pond or lake or under ocean water…. People ridicule that which they don’t understand, but do not want to hear or learn about another person’s experience or reality. It’s dismissed as– well, so what, you’re okay. You were okay -somebody pulled you out–

    and never stop to think that the person suffered severe crisis and then ridicule which combined to make a traumatic event and every time round, faces another traumatic event through ridicule or rejection of an experience. It’s crazy– if an instructor or somebody knows that an incident happened, then do something to alleviate it and help the person overcome the event, but don’t ridicule him/her for struggling with it. I wanted to learn to swim so it would not happen again, but finally at 40, I gave up.

  • Cory

    Wow! Thank you. I shared this, and everyone agreed that they wouldn’t have recognized the drowning! You will have prevented lives lost with this video!

  • Monica

    So sorry that you had that experience!!! That is just awful! No child should be traumatized like that! I hope you find healing!

  • mcl

    I suppose, but I think lots of kids suffer similar incidents

  • melissa

    that lady that is standing right there just watching make me mad. my son has almost drowned twice , i just dont know how you can stand there and do nothing.

  • Marilynne

    I can empathize with you mci. I was not a confident swimmer and my new friends began to cannon ball and pull me under when they went down. I didn’t have a chance to catch a breath, to fight them. Nothing. Then they laughed when I finally came out of the pool waterlogged and crying.

  • mcl

    does sound a bit like normal human nature… for them what’s fun is for you terrifying. I think when I got pulled out, I was just pretty much exhausted and numb. I couldn’t understand what was funny, but maybe if I were able to be an onlooker, I might have same reaction. I don’t know. It’s strange experience, really. What you experience and what the onlooker perceives are two different realities. pretty existential.

  • Apa

    Same thing happened to me as a child. I didn’t know how to swim so my uncles threw me into the pool for the “sink or swim” method, needless to say, I sank. So afraid of water for years. Even taking a shower with the nozzle spraying full blast in my face caused me to panic. Beach is ok, but a pool, I start freaking out. Tried many swim lessons and never succeeded. Looking into that conquer your fear course but who knew how expensive it is to pay for the course because of being traumatized by family as a kid for not knowing how to swim.

  • Agora

    I had NO idea. This is really good to know. Even after reading Vittone’s article & watching the above video I am afraid I still wouldn’t recognize it… but better to be paranoid & think everything is drowning than to miss it when it’s really happening.

  • FmrLifegrd

    As a former lifeguard I have seen this in action several times, and some of the younger children made even less movement than this boy; their mouths were at water level, eyes bugging out in fear, feet kicking deep like they were riding a unicycle but going nowhere. Scary as hell; you have to see it and recognize it, and then get there fast. So glad people are getting this information! Please scan everyone when you swim, not just your own kids.

  • Gene Thaden

    At 16 our boat was run over, literally, by a larger faster boat, I was injured by the prop. Still remember going up and down with no time to hardly catch a breath. Was, I expect, finally going down for the last time when the 14 year old kid that was piloting the other boat yanked on my collar and pulled me to the surface. My dad was treading water the whole time but was about to go down and the kid tossed him a floating cushion. Kid had just taken a red cross life saving course.

    I am not so afraid of water now as I was but still have to fight panic if I am in deep water and vertical. I just turned 70 last March. Our house burned in 1955 when I was 11, we barely got out, I am still very careful around fire. These kinds of things stay with you for life, and maybe into the next one.

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  • Veronica Davis McInnis

    I was also one of those kids. My PE teacher pushed me in when I was 16 years old…I sank to the bottom and almost drowned, I could hear my peers and instructor laughing…. I have since, never learned to swim or dog-paddle, however, made sure all 3 of my children had swimming lessons as children. I, also, am one of the ones who has panic attacks (PTSD) when the shower head is spraying water directly in my face…

  • Veronica Davis McInnis

    Duh, because they didn’t recognize that he was drowning. Hence, the need for the video melissa. I don’t believe anyone would intentionally stand by and watch a child drown.

  • mcl

    i tried many courses including a conquer fear course, but the mentality of the teachers wre pretty abusive and intolerant– like, “haha, you chicken, bawk, bawk, bawk, you’re afraid of water, bawk-bawk-bawk” and forcing head under water and making stupid jokes and deprecating comments… but I never had any fear to sit in or under breakers on seacost. it is rational, not irrational. if something bad happened then there is a reason why you have the fear–it’s normal healthy response to crisis.

  • mcl

    it’s really good you understand this, but adults and others need to learn to detect it and realize it’s not funny–and the child needs lots of reassurance afterwards, not ridicule. maybe the trauma from bad jokes is even harder on human psyche than the actual event… we remember he response but our minds might block out the actual terror of drowning.