By Sue-Ellen Sanders
What will you do in an emergency, when every minute counts and someone's life hangs in the balance? It could be a family member or a friend or neighbor, or it could be someone who is a stranger to you completely.
If you're like me, you like to think that you would remain calm enough to remember to contact an emergency number (911) and then do what it takes until help gets there.
The problem with emergencies is that they're unexpected and unpredicted. And you don't know just how you will react until something happens.
That's what I told myself when I first read about the little boy who drowned in a neighbor's pool in Indiantown a few weeks ago. The woman and her 9-year-old son were watching TV when they noticed the young boy, a stranger to them, floating in the above ground pool in their backyard.
The woman called 911, but didn't pull the boy from the pool. When Martin County Fire-Rescue arrived, they found the boy still alive and gave him CPR.
Unfortunately, he died later at the hospital.
Why was the child not pulled from the pool by the neighbor, I wondered, along with most others who heard the story.
"Me and my mom were too scared to get him out," the son of the woman who owned the pool told reporters.
Scared of what? Did the older child and his mother not swim? The news reported the pool was filled with algae and bugs and had not been used, "in some time." Were they concerned about germs?
Could the extra few minutes have made a difference? We don't know how long he had been in the water or even unconscious. It's possible that the woman thought the child was already dead and that there was no point in getting involved or wet. Or she could have just panicked and didn't know what to do.
Port St. Lucie Police Capt. Don Kryak reminds us that, even if 911 has been called, they aren't going to get to the scene in 30 seconds.
"Common sense dictates taking some action in order to save a life," said Capt. Kryak "Especially when you can do it without danger to yourself."
"If it's a pool emergency and you don't have the skill level to swim, some effort should still be made, because minutes matter," continued Capt, Kryak, who promotes safety programs as part of the "Never Leave a Child Unattended" campaign begun by himself and his wife, Amy.
"The lungs are big balloons. In drowning, if they are filling with water, they cannot expend oxygen to flow through the body. As the brain is deprived of oxygen, brain damage and eventually, death, will occur. It's a gradual process and every minute counts."
"Even when you are not sure how long the person has been in the water, you should make every attempt to get the body to the side and then out of the water. Use a long pole or any long object like a garden hose or a mop, to push the body to the water's edge, if you need to," recommends Capt. Kryak.
911 can walk you through the steps of rescue; even help you to start CPR, if you are familiar with it. Of course, the Red Cross recommends anyone who lives near water get CPR training, and local chapters offer extra courses in water safety and CPR every summer.
"You never know how you'll react in an emergency, until it happens," reminds Capt. Kryak. "It says courage, knowledge and integrity on our (Port St. Lucie Police) patches and we are trained to serve, but split-second decisions can be unnerving for anyone."
"In most cases, you won't be running into a burning building to save a life or wrestling an alligator or shark, but you need to know the basics, like pulling a drowning victim from the water. Any action is usually better than no action."
Sue-Ellen Sanders writes about family issues every week in the Hometown News. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.