Toddler Nightmare: Toddler Blown Into Lake Michigan Submerged for 15 Minutes and Lives
You'd think this wasn't a comedy blog anymore. It is! But no parent can help feeling bad for the grandfather who saw his 2-year-old grandson blown into Lake Michigan and founder underwater until he was pulled out and rushed to a hospital by emergency crews after 15 minutes submerged.
A parent's nightmare. Really. When you first realize that your wife is pregnant along with the joy are the worries of all the things that have gone wrong to others that creep into your thoughts and dreams. A friend saw her three-year-old bounce off the bed, through a screen and out the three story window of her apartment. Fortunately into the bushes below.
"Mom! Can I do that again!"
She still quivers a little when she tells that story behind the laughs as she tells it. Be careful where you let your toddlers bounce is the moral of that tale.
The moral of this tale is, be very careful when walking a small child along a pier along any body of water if you yourself cannot swim.
When my son was three I took him down to the harbors along the lakeshore. I let him walk down the piers and look right into the water. He laughed and giggled and had lots of fun. But this story does not make me worry that this was a dangerous thing to do. I was prepared for that activity.
First, it was a calm weather day. No heavy winds.
Second, as a teenager I earned both the Boy Scouts Scout Lifeguard Award, the rough equivalent to the Red Cross Water Safety Instructor except that it also has a rowing requirement, I followed that up with Red Cross Advanced Life Saving and Red Cross CPR in College, then before our son was born, my wife and I got certified in Red Cross Infant and Child CPR at a local hospital.
If my son had fallen into the water I would have been able to pull him out in seconds. Had he stopped breathing, I knew what to do while running to a phone to call 911. Though I had a cell phone with me so that was not needed. But I was prepared. You can be too.
If you live near a large body of water be careful near it. Keep close to kids, near the water if you can't swim.
The grandpa in this case did one thing right. By not jumping in when he did not know how to swim he did not cause a double-drowning. Instead, someone saw him and that gave his grandson the best chance he could get.
Never risk a double drowning, but if you know how, this is the order to do it.
But only go if you know how. If you do, try to bring something that floats, like a ring buoy (life preserver) (they are to be thrown over the shoulders of a victim and drawn back not aimed at the head!) or an inflatable something.
Don't ever let a panicked swimmer grab you. Especially by the neck.
Let's keep this family in our prayers.
And as the sporting season starts, make sure you have a safety vest for everyone on your boat. Not only is it the law, but it prevents tragedies on very small craft.
They are an absolute must for canoes.
I will never forget the year after earning Scout Lifeguard being on a 30 mile canoe trip with a non-swimmer in the bow of my canoe. We were on the White River, near Whitehall, Michigan, just where it starts to feed into White Lake. About a half hour before we would land at Arf n' Barf.
He was wearing his vest. But he was also painfully thin.
It was a windy day and we actually had waves on this part of the river that were 6 to 8 inches high. Very unusual. Most of the river is only a foot to 3 feet deep. But at this part it opens up to about 12 feet deep. I was in the stern, the back of the canoe that controls or steers where the canoe would go. He wanted to move further back and I told him No!
He stood up in the canoe to move back anyway. Without his paddling we started to turn sideways to the wind and waves. I yelled to him as gently as I could to be careful and stay low so that he would not present himself like a sail to the wind. He stood straight up to hear me better, then lost his balance. Over we went.
The canoe turned upside down. I immediately came to the surface. He was not on my side of the canoe. I dived, wearing my vest this was hard, under the canoe to make sure he was not trapped underneath it then came up on the underside of it. He was not on the other side. But his vest was.
The kid was so thin that he had slid right out of his life vest and gone straight to the bottom of the river which had a mud bottom. I yelled to some of the older kids behind us to come then dove down to the bottom.
I could see him down there, barely, through the muddy water. He was not moving or struggling. Fighting the pull of the vest was one of the hardest things I have ever done, the water was at least 12 feet down and perhaps 15, it took all my strength.
He looked up at me, reached up to me with his hand, I grabbed it and pulled him into a cross-chest carry with control and the vest rocketed us up to the surface. At the top he exploded out the breath he had been holding.
When I shouted at him why hadn't he tried to come up to the surface he shrugged and said. "I was waiting for you. I knew you'd come get me." Nice. Very nice. By this time a couple of the other canoes got there and I had lashed the kid back into his vest and pushed him into one of the other canoes. We then did a maneuver called canoe over canoe rescue.
To do this you need a second canoe. While the overturned canoe is still upside-down you push one end down so that the other end comes up over the middle of the other canoe. Then you push the over turned canoe up until it is balanced on the middle of the other canoe upside down. Then when it is balanced in the middle, you can turn the canoe over out of the water and slide it back into the water floating. Then the person(s) in the other canoe can hold both canoes together by the thwarts, sides, to make it easier for the people in the water to get back in.
This was in some ways the most panicked of all, I wanted us to get back in the canoe before our Scoutmaster and assistant scoutmaster came around the bend and saw what had happened. I did not want them to know that I had dumped a 10-year old non-swimmer to the bottom of While Lake and almost drowned him. The current had been moving fast. If I had missed him on that first attempt, I don't know if I could have found him on a second try. It was terrifying.
I also did not know if I had the strength for a second or third try given the depth and the strength it took to fight the life vest and my own considerable natural buoyancy. The senior scouts with me and the kid looked at each other in shock.
"Pete", one said, "You almost really screwed that one up."
"Yeah," said another, "But you didn't."
"Hey," I said, "What Willy doesn't know," our Scoutmaster, "won't cause him any lost sleep or tears."
"Right." They all agreed.
"You!" The biggest of the lot said to the kid. "Keep your mouth shut about this and your butt in the bottom of the canoe."
I used what we called Willy-rope, rope our Scoutmaster used to get from tossed-out rope from his employer to tie the vest onto the kid and sat him down while we were still together. I was tempted to tie him to the canoe, but that was unsafe. We moved close to the North bank of the river, the Arf N' Barf side, and moved together as a group the last mile or so to our landing place well ahead still of the last of the 30 canoes with Willy in it.
I don't know if he ever learned that story.
Ten years later I was at my one of my sister's weddings and the kid's sister came up to me.
"Hi Peter," she said in a manner that was a lot friendlier than I would have expected given our lack of time spent together. She was my sisters' friend after all. I said Hi. She looked around. Noticed that we were sort of alone, then she grabbed me and kissed me. Hard.
"Wow! What was that for? I mean, thanks."
"You'll know what that was for if you think a little.:
"Done any canoeing lately? Say on the White River at Owasippe?" Then the penny dropped. I knew that she knew. "Thanks. I really have liked having my brother around for the last 10 years. You know he only told me that story recently so its still a little shocking. I don't know what I would have done..."
That's more than you need to know. It made me feel good that someone knew and remembered what had happened. Not my stupidity in letting the situation get that far, though I had done all the warning I could have. But I was even gladder to hear how well he had done since then. That was the best news of all.
Switching back to the news story. This toddler has a possible future just like the kid in my story. It may be that he goes on to a great life. I sure hope so. But all those involved in his rescue deserve kudos for the attempt, from the stranger who stopped and called it in, to each hospital worker. Each life touches so many others. Each one we save, touches thousands more.
And I did not act alone. I was in the position to go to the bottom. But I had the support of the other canoes that rushed to my side. They just didn't help me hide it from Willy. That really wasn't important in the long run. They helped me get the kid out of the water fast. And back into a safe canoe, in a life vest.
When you go out in the water this summer, make sure you wear a properly fitting life vest.
To see maps of the area of the canoe trip around the White River and the Owasippe Scout Reservation click here or at the Help Save the Owasippe Scout Reservation link at the top of my Sidebar. You will have to navigate to the maps of Owasippe.
Note: The White River trips started at Canoe Central near the Administration Center and Horse Corral and Ended in Whitehall at Dog 'n Suds which had great food. After almost two weeks of camp food it was like heaven on earth despite our nickname for it.
Peter, Chief Editor and Spelling Wrecker
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