Drowning is not what you see on TV and in the movies. It’s quiet.
That’s the takeaway Mandy Watson, with the Tyler regional office of the Department of Health and Human Services, told a group of children and adults Thursday night at a special water safety class at Lake Murvaul.
“You don’t hear anything,” she said. “You may see someone like a bobber, where they’re going kind of up and down trying to catch a breath. But when you’re in distress like that and you’re trying to fight for your life, you’re trying to keep your lungs full of air. That’s all they have left. So at that point, you’re not able to scream. That’s closed off. So you have no voice. So it’s silent. That’s why it’s so important that we’re constantly watching the water, OK?”
The class was hosted by the Panola County Fresh Water Supply District No. 1 in the wake of a Garrison teen’s drowning death earlier this month. The goal was to prevent future tragedies.
“We want to provide an educational program for the community to make sure that everybody’s safe,” water district President Eric Pellham said.
The class covered a number of safety basics, including the importance of learning to swim, using life jackets, taking breaks and keeping hydrated. Watson explained how adults needed to always keep an eye on the water, even shallow water — a person can drown in 2 inches of water.
Watson also taught a quick lesson on compression CPR, meaning hands-only. The number of hands used in CPR varies based on the person’s age. For babies, it’s two fingers; for children younger than 8, it’s one hand; and for everyone else, it’s two hands.
The tune you use to keep up the correct CPR rhythm? The adults in the room learned “Stayin’ Alive.” But Watson said nowadays they teach kids with “Baby Shark.”
“Throw, don’t go” was the big lesson when it comes to saving someone who is drowning. It’s better to throw a flotation device, life jacket or something similar so that the person can grab onto it. Someone who rushes into the water to save someone may end up drowning themselves.
Watson told the children that if they ever found themselves struggling to stay afloat, they should raise their hand to get someone’s attention. They should also try to get on their back and float with their head above water.
Statewide, Watson said 43 drowning deaths have been recorded this year. For every one drowning death, Watson said there are five near-drownings — and once someone is pulled out of the water, that doesn’t mean he or she is in the clear.
“The best thing to do is to teach swim lessons, to learn to swim, be strong swimmers — but know that you have to respect the water,” she said.