A near drowning episode

23 Jul

When the weather gets hot outside everyone tries to enjoy outdoor activities. It was a camping adventure with my husband, sister, niece and nephew.  It was a beautiful summer weekend, August 17, 2002 at Clays Park in Canal Fulton, Ohio.    I have never been a person to say: “I can’t” until I try it.  I wish I said: “No” or “I can’t” when it came to that water slide.

All the water slides have warnings.  I didn’t think any of these warnings applied to myself. Why would I? My youngest sister is also a rehabilitation registered nurse and she encouraged me to do the water slide at least once. I had faith in her judgement…at least this one time.

The most difficult part I thought would be trying to walk up to the top of the slide.  Short of breath, it took me some time to get up to the top.  It was so hard, I stopped several times to rest. I already knew I would only do the slide once, because it would be impossible for me to walk up twice.

I tried to live as normal of life as possible after my TBI, but little did others understand my struggles with the basic functioning of life.  Breathing was a problem.  I was short of breathe all the time with the slightest bit of exertion.  Somewhere in my mind I felt like I needed to act “okay” since I looked “okay”.  I think it’s also an expected behavior by society.  If you look good, you are fine!

While the girls were off to the water activities my husband and nephew were enjoying their first fishing experience.  This fishing trip lead to my nephews first catch in his life at 8 years.

A simple body slide.

A simple body slide. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We laughed and joked while we stood in line at the slide.  It was to be my first experience on a water slide.  I had to try everything at least once.  My niece was only 5 years old.  My niece and sister went down the slide before I did.  They were waiting at the bottom.

It was my turn on the slide.  I don’t remember anything for a brief period.  I lost consciousness just as I sat down. That wasn’t unusual for me. I have been loosing consciousness since my injury in 1991 but nothing could pinpoint the cause.  I just knew it lead to many injuries over the years.  So the cause was unknown, but the effects were devastating.  It didn’t stop my life, and I didn’t fear anything.

I came to as I was under water in just 2 feet deep.  So, how do you think people drown in 2 feet of water?  I’m not sure of others, but I can explain what I felt and what was happening.

Of course at the time you are not thinking this is just 2 feet deep.  How would I have remembered that?  All I could think of was to get out of the water.  I couldn’t find the top of the water.  I kept trying to find the top but I couldn’t figure it out.  I couldn’t call for help.  I was already under the water.

My sister and niece were standing at the bottom of the water slide and at first to them it appeared I was just playing around.  After a minute or so my sister realized something was terribly wrong and said she started screaming for the lifeguards.

As per her report she said my body was floating upward with my spine arched backward and my head totally emerged.  I struggled to find my way out and I could not. I couldn’t find the top of the water.  I was trying and I just couldn’t find it.  Then finally I had this peacefulness that overcame me and my struggle was ending.

Damn! Then I was pulled from the water by the lifeguards.  It was my sister that needed to alert the lifeguards that something was desperately wrong.  It’s frightening to know that lifeguards need to keep a close eye on their job all the time even in 2 feet of water and whether it’s a child or an adult.

When I was pulled from the water I began to vomit and spit out water.  I guess that was a good sign.  I refused immediate medical intervention, but there were a few people who did check on me several times as I sat nearby for a while.  Later, I laid on the beach while my sister and niece went swimming.  I had no strength to walk back to the campground.

Water Slide

Water Slide (Photo credit: s0ggy lettuce)

When we headed back to the campground I had already decided I did not want to say anything to my husband.  I was never a complainer, so there really wasn’t anything to talk about. That evening my husband was complaining about muscle spasms in his neck.  I said nothing.

During the night he still had muscle spasms and I got up with him to walk to the toilets.  On our way back, I realized I showed no empathy.  I finally told him what happened.  He wasn’t happy that I did not tell him.  I certainly had no desire to spoil anyones camping trip.

I probably would not have mentioned anything until we arrived home, but I was loosing my patience with other small complaints. When we arrived home I was treated for near-drowning episode, had aspiration pneumonia and started a round of antibiotics and other medications.

Returning to aquatic exercise was unsettling.  I knew I needed to, it was the only physical activity I could tolerate and yet the fear of this episode was surreal.  After about a week of aquatic exercise I did feel better.  I never entered into the water after that without a life belt on.  An entire decade later, I finally feel comfortable to enter a pool area without a life belt.  I exercise by a huge water slide everyday now, but I’m not on the water slide!


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20 responses to “A near drowning episode

  1. Lydia H

    July 23, 2012 at 12:31 am

    That was a close call. Thanks for the reminder to be safe as I try new things, post TBI

  2. goingtoandromeda

    July 23, 2012 at 8:23 pm

    What an experience! Quite alarming that your sister had to alert the life guard. I do understand the ailments thing too…its so hard I find to empathise with a friend complaining to me about an ulcer on their tongue or an itchy eye..!

    • brain injury self rehabilitation (BISR)

      July 25, 2012 at 3:57 pm

      I never thought of it that way, until you pointed it out that my sister needed to alert to lifeguards. I guess it’s just assumed nothing will happen or does happen to a “healthy” looking adult!

  3. wendy

    July 23, 2012 at 9:33 pm

    That is just simply terrifying. I came close to drowning because someone else jumped in a pool and hit me, then decided they couldn’t swim and held me under so they could be above water. It was terrifying. I did get lose, but it took me a long time to think about how to help myself, I was passing out as it came to me…get the person on top of me underwater.
    This pool was surrounded by parents, and a lifeguard, and no one noticed I was drowning.
    They came to rescue him first, as I was vomiting and still couldn’t catch my breath.
    I wanted to kill him.

    After that incident, I became a life guard. I never really worked as a life guard, but I was going to know as much as possible how to help myself and others if something out of control happened again.

    • brain injury self rehabilitation (BISR)

      July 25, 2012 at 4:01 pm

      I was a lifeguard for many years, but given the right circumstances it really doesn’t matter when you’re confused, con’t think and can’t find the top. Ultimately, I’ve continued to jump back in and keep exercising.

  4. heidirmoore

    July 24, 2012 at 1:25 am


    Thanks for another great post!

    I just wanted you to know that as a big fan of your blog, I nominated you for some awards. Please read my blog for more info.



    • brain injury self rehabilitation (BISR)

      July 25, 2012 at 4:23 pm


      I sincerely thank you for the nomination! It’s always a pleasure to read your comments and your blog. I’m behind on about everything and will catch up soon, especially on my readings. Unfortunately, I haven’t figured out how to do the award thing yet…and in time I will. Hope you are tolerating the heat! I will pray that the pulmonary emboli dissolve without fatality. I also believe our body will heal what it can, while our minds remind focused on other things.

      Take care and stay safe,

  5. Three Well Beings

    July 25, 2012 at 7:48 pm

    How terrifying, Edie! I’m so glad that you had your sister with you…as are you, I’m sure! I just can’t imagine that there aren’t really more problems with water danger with the severe drops and speed. I would imagine many people don’t know they have a sensitivity to the effects, perhaps learning of a problem for the first time when they make their first swooosh down into the water. Good reminder to perhaps have others keep an eye on us…not solely rely upon young lifeguards! Debra

    • brain injury self rehabilitation (BISR)

      July 26, 2012 at 3:40 pm

      I learned quickly how drowning is silent. Most people never have the opportunity to scream for help…I learned the hard way, but it was only one little episode along the journey so another thing to learn from.


    July 26, 2012 at 6:58 am

    Oh my you are so very lucky girl. Living while loosing consciousness. What a F…ing problem to cope with and so very dangerous. The breathless fatigue and exertion exhaustion is enough to deal with always having to push through everything is too familiar. I cant imagine loosing consciousness. You have my sympathy. Glad you are still with us.

    • brain injury self rehabilitation (BISR)

      July 26, 2012 at 3:42 pm

      Loosing consciousness is not any different then any other type of chronic issues. You just get used to it, and push on. Worry never helps conquer the problem, but determination does.

  7. katharinetrauger

    July 29, 2012 at 3:23 am

    Hello, Edie!
    You visiti my site so often and are so kind to “like” what I do! This was an amazing read, but more than that, I know, to you.
    I once fished a 3-year-old from ONE foot of water — she could not find “up” just as you described. All she needed to do was stand up. Poor dear. She was okay afterward, but it is so important to pay attention in water! You know they have those cautions on even a BUCKET of water — that a little one could drown, even in a bucket, and it is true. That’s why they say “never swim alone” but if no one is paying any attention, you ARE alone.
    Glad you overcame it. I would have been shocked if you had not. You are an overcomer. 🙂

    • brain injury self rehabilitation (BISR)

      July 29, 2012 at 7:47 am

      Thanks for such kind words. I’m hoping that others will understand that drowning is silent and how important to always know safety issues in and around water. It was good to hear that someone else, even a child couldn’t find “up”. It’s a very weird sensation, but really could have been a peaceful end as well! Something I use to believe was a horrific struggle, but I was at peace … and then I was pulled from the water. You are the first to tell me about someone not being able to find the “top” in swallow water, but I haven’t shared this nor have I researched. You made an excellent point that if no one is paying attention “You are ALONE” in the water!

      • katharinetrauger

        July 29, 2012 at 7:18 pm

        I have often struggled to find the top of water that was only chest deep for me. I cannot swim, nor will I likely ever learn how. My husband is qualified to teach swimming and he says, “You’re not doing anything wrong; you just sink.” So I have more respect for the killing power of water than most, who swim well.
        Needless to say, when we moved to a house with a swimming pool, I made a thousand rules, mostly just that no one even GOES out there without a partner and no one goes out there at ALL without a life jacket unless Daddy is out there. Water causes slickness and one slip on concrete could cause a relatively less harmful moment of unconsciousness that could lead to death, if it happened under water.
        Something I loved seeing at a state park near me, is a lifeguard with a floatation device at the bottom of the waterslide, whose sole duty is to watch each person as he exits the slide, ready to offer the flotation device. Great plan, one you could have used that day!
        Oh, and I swim very well in my dreams! 😉

      • brain injury self rehabilitation (BISR)

        July 31, 2012 at 11:01 pm

        You’ve made a great suggestion that I didn’t think of but is definitely an issue. Falls can be very serious and cause death. Safety is important in and around the pool. I also love the idea of a lifeguard at the bottom of a waterside. Pool rules and house rules need to be implemented every where. You can never have too many rules when it comes to safety.

      • brain injury self rehabilitation (BISR)

        July 31, 2012 at 11:07 pm

        You’ve pointed out about slip-an-fall accidents that occur frequently around a pool area. Always use caution with water in and out of the pool area. Pool rules always need implemented to keep everyone safe. You can’t have too many rules. The idea of a lifeguard with floatation device at the bottom of a water slide is great. Keep on swimming, it’s a totally safe sport in your dreams!

      • katharinetrauger

        August 1, 2012 at 8:56 am

        UNLESS — unless you flail about and fall out of bed!!!!! 😆

  8. Maria Tatham

    August 1, 2012 at 11:55 pm

    Dear Edie, what an ordeal to go through, simply to try to keep up with other people’s ideas about what you could do. This post is a great warning not to go beyond your limits, to know your limits. Your breathlessness on the stairs seems like an indication that this was a bad idea; but it might have been hard to climb down the stairs, too. Thank you for this warning! Really, it can help people with other afflictions, or who are simply aging, reminding them that life is fragile.
    As always, you tried to do your best. Sorry you suffered in this way – scary!

    • brain injury self rehabilitation (BISR)

      August 2, 2012 at 7:02 am

      Hi Maria, You are right that knowing limitations is vital to our existence! Others really have no idea of daily struggles, even if they are around us. I did learn, and am cautious everyday I get in the water to exercise. It never escapes me, but I don’t let it interfer with my exercise and I know I need to do this to stay healthy. If I could only reach one other person for help, it’s worth sharing. Take care and stay safe, Edie


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