Preparing for the instant we hope never comes

By Brian Knox | Published Saturday, July 14, 2012

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It’s the kind of call you dread hearing over the police scanner.

“Unresponsive 4-year-old in a backyard pool, CPR in progress.”

You stop what you are doing, and you listen for more.

Finally, you hear good news.

“The child is now crying.”

Brian Knox

Brian Knox

Any parent will tell you, that’s a great thing, especially when a child has been choking or nearly drowned.

That was a real situation Wednesday afternoon. The child was flown to Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth and released Thursday morning.

We hope to soon bring you a happy story – a story of how CPR performed by a family member revived the small child. We’ve passed along a message to the family, and we hope they choose to share their story.

But then word came down Thursday that a similar situation did not have the same positive outcome. A 5-year-old girl from Paradise, Pipper Sasnett, drowned at Eagle Mountain Lake while swimming with a group of people. She was also taken to Cook Children’s Medical Center where she was pronounced dead around 7 p.m.

We were still gathering details on both stories as this column was written, but it appears that in both situations, the child was not alone in the water. There were family or friends in the area when both children became unresponsive.

That’s scary.

As a parent of a 5-year-old girl – a girl who likes to “swim,” but hasn’t yet learned how – that’s really scary. These cases both prove that it only takes an instant for a fun situation to take a tragic turn.

So what can we do?

I was once a Boy Scout (for a short period of time). But one thing that stuck with me was the motto: “Be prepared.” I think that’s what is necessary in these cases.

First, be prepared to watch the child at all times. If a child can’t swim, make sure to have him or her wear a life jacket.

Second, be prepared for a possible drowning situation. In the case of the young child who survived, it appears that CPR was used to revive the child.

The Decatur Fire Department regularly puts on CPR classes for the public. In fact, several members of the Messenger staff had already signed up for the class next Saturday.

Third, enroll your child in swimming lessons. There are even classes for babies.

I can still remember learning to swim as a young child. At the end of each lesson, the instructor had us jump off the diving board into the deep end of the pool.

Hated it. Bordered on terrified, actually.

I remember the instructor picking me up on the board and jumping in with me as I held my breath and waited for the splash that would proceed the wall of water enveloping me.

And then I would emerge, taking a deep breath mixed with a sigh of relief because it meant that day’s lesson was over, and I had overcome my fear (with a little help of course.)

The memories are still so clear, I’m sure, because of that fear I felt at the time. But today, I can swim, and I’m thankful for it.

We’ve had our share of tragic child deaths recently – just this last week alone, beginning with 14-year-old Marcus Silletti’s death on the train tracks in Alvord.

All it takes is a single moment. And in that moment, as we’ve seen, everything can be taken away.

Just as I was scared of that diving board, we, as parents, are often scared to imagine our child in those situations. So we must prepare for those unthinkable instances and hope the day never comes when those preparations are put into action in a life-threatening situation.

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