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6/10/16 blog post

the right place at the right time

Dayton Children’s patient care assistant saves boy from drowning at local pool

Christi Atkins promised her four kids that she would take them to Crestwood Swim Club, even after working a 12-hour shift in the emergency department as a PCA the night before. What she didn’t expect was to use her CPR skills outside of the ED to save the life of 5-year-old Kiefer Chapman. “I was laying in my chair watching four heads: Jake, Isabelle, Blake and Peyton, like I always do when my kids and I are at the pool,” shares Christi. “Suddenly I heard multiple lifeguard whistles blow at the same time and looked up. There was a mom running frantically with a complete look of terror on her face.” Christi sprang into action to see a young boy who had been pulled out of the pool laying on the concrete. He was gray and lifeless. “He had no pulse, his lips were white and he was ghost grey, Christi explained.

“I yelled at everyone to get back and told someone to call 9-1-1. I told the lifeguard that I worked at Dayton Children’s and started doing compressions while the lifeguard gave Kiefer breaths. All I cared about was his life. I’ve never met this family before, but it didn’t matter, it was a life.”

Within a minute, Christi got a heartbeat and Kiefer started to cough and gag. Christi turned him on his side while he threw up water.

“It was so surreal, it’s hard to describe in words how I felt in that moment” Christi said. “I was crying and hugging his mom, reassuring her that he would be OK. I was in the right place at the right time. I never thought that I would need to perform CPR outside of the ED at the hospital.” Medics arrived minutes later and Kiefer was taken to our emergency department and then transferred to the PICU for monitoring overnight.

“We checked into the pool at 1:38 pm that afternoon and by 1:45 pm, medics were there,” shares Kiefer’s mom Suzanne. “I turned my head for one second, that’s all it took. There were some boys throwing a ball back and forth and later we learned that one of the kids landed on Kiefer. He was only in two feet of water when he went under. Christi isn’t just a hero, she’s an angel.

“She’s amazing and we are so thankful that she was there. If she wasn’t at the pool Thursday, he could have died or suffered from brain damage. No family is invincible, I don’t know how we could ever thank Christi. I am in debt to her forever.”

Keeping kids safe while swimming

Drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death among children ages 1-4 and the second cause among kids from ages 4-14. According to Safe Kids, while most of these deaths happen in a swimming pool and it is important to remember that it can happen in as little as 2 inches of water. In addition, for every one child that drowns, eight more need to go to the emergency department for a “close call” in the water.

“Kids drown quickly and quietly,” said Lisa Schwing, RN, trauma program manager at Dayton Children’s Hospital. “A drowning child cannot cry or shout for help.”

Most parents supervise their child while swimming, however they will also admit they are often distracted by other activities at the same time. “A supervised child is in sight at all times with your undivided attention focused on the child,” says Schwing. “When there are children in or near the water, adults should take turns serving as the designated “Water Watcher,” paying undivided attention. It only takes a second for something to happen. In order to prevent accidents we must all first top to admit that it could happen to us and then take the extra precautions. ”

If a parent is the designated watcher, nothing should distract them from the kids in the pool. Put down the cell phone, tune out the conversation going on around you and make your focus the kids in the water. One moment of distraction is not worth a lifetime of regret.

What to do in an emergency

Whenever a child is missing, always check the pool first. Survival depends on a quick rescue and restarting breathing as soon as possible:

  • If you find a child in the water, immediately get the child out while calling loudly for help. If someone else is available, have them call 911. Check to make sure the child’s air passages are clear. If the child is not breathing, start CPR if you are trained to do so. When the emergency number is called, follow the instructions the emergency operators provide.
  • If you think the child may have suffered a neck injury, such as from diving, keep the child on his or her back and brace the neck and shoulders with your hands and forearms to help keep the neck from moving until emergency help arrives. This type of immobilization minimizes further injury to the spine and is best done by someone who is trained in the technique. Keep the child still and speak in calm tones to keep the child comforted. Continue to watch for adequate breathing.

Swimming lessons

One of the best ways to make your child safer in the water is to make sure they learn good swimming skills.

You can start introducing your babies to water when they are about 6 months old but start slowly. Remember to always use waterproof diapers and change them frequently.

You can start enrolling your kids in swimming lessons around age 4, but that won’t make them invincible. Even swimmers with advanced skills can hit their head or suffer a medical condition and pass out under water. While it may be uncommon, it does happen. There is no substitute for active supervision. Don’t rely on inflatable swimming toys such as “water wings” and noodles.

If you child does have a near drowning incident, they should be seen in the emergency department and monitored for second drowning syndrome. “This occurs when the lung tissue is injured and later, usually within 24 hours, begins to produce excessive secretions,” says Schwing. “This happens in about 5% of near drowning victims.”