If you want to be a hero, don’t just jump in
Updated: Dec 21, 2018
Looking at the Irish Mirror today and there is a fantastic story about an 8 year old Limerick boy who rescued a toddler in a pool in Portugal.
It is so easy sometimes to save a life but let’s not say, “oh it was nothing” because believe me it was something and the story reminds me of a time being on the receiving end of a rescue.
I believe I was also a toddler at the time, I recalled this very event to my girlfriend just last week when we were talking about the time (twice) that she saved her own mother from drowning.
Being a hero is not about a dramatic rescue, it is about being there when needed and also and especially if involving an element of risk.
Lifting a toddler out of the water is not hard but lifting a toddler out of the water as they sink to the bottom is essential and you only have to die once to discover the tragic deep end.
My sister and neighbour were teaching me to swim in the shallow end of the old swimming pool on Retreat Road, Athlone and gave me two floats to put under my arms and they told me to kick my legs which I did. I kicked all the way to the deep end which did not have a rope separating it from the rest of the pool.
I am not sure why it didn’t that day and normally there was always a rope separating the deep end from the rest of the pool or two lanes put down for lane swimming at night time.
Past the red coloured tiles that signified entry into the deep end and my two floats floated away from under my chubby little arms and I went down like a lead balloon.
I believe I was 3 or 4 and my sister and neighbour either 7 or 8. A surprisingly clear memory for my young age despite the chlorine coloured haze which could have been the last thing I ever saw.
One man dived into the pool from the far end of the deep end and scoped me up. Not sure how I can possibly have that image in my head but I do and of course it is hard to trust a memory so old and especially when I was so young when it happened but important never the less and very memorable.
Any swimmer can rescue someone but non-swimmers can equally rescue someone. In my girlfriend’s case she was lucky not to have lost her own life doing it.
My girlfriend was a non-swimmer but on one occasion she had to rescue her mother who had slipped on rocks by a stream and was knocked unconscious.
I have to warn you of course that a conscious person poses a serious threat to your own life if they try to get a hold of you and panic but an unconscious person needs help. The depth of water is insignificant, a person can drown in a puddle or a bath or any volume of water that covers their mouth and nose for that matter. Slipping on the rocks herself and falling down, my girlfriend entered the water and grabbed her mother who was now bleeding from where she hit her head.
They continued down stream and it took a few men to help them out of the water and again this is where things get risky, you cannot jump blindly into the water as you don’t know what is underneath. Rocks and tree trunks or shopping trolleys all pose a threat to you and likewise getting out of the water especially with an unconscious person might not be possible.
Learn to swim is my best advice and Irish Water Safety have a fantastic aspirational motto:
EVERYONE A SWIMMER AND EVERY SWIMMER A LIFESAVER
On two occasions my girlfriend had to rescue her mother and did. On both occasions she was lucky. Never enter the water unnecessarily and always question why someone has gotten into difficulty in the first place, you may need help getting someone out of the water and the worst tragedy can be a double drowning. Learn to swim or encourage children to become swimmers and lifesavers.
This young Limerick boy did not pull someone from the Shannon but from a pool in Portugal and he will always have these swimming skills no matter where he goes.
Athlone Regional Sports Centre organise three Water Safety Weeks, one at Easter and two during the Summer. We are a country surrounded by water and a town divided by it.
The young boy was awarded a Seiko Just in Time Award and he received the award along with his grandmother who was also receiving an award for 40 years of voluntary service with Irish Water Safety.
Last year the Athlone Topic won a Social Responsibility Award for a series of articles promoting Water Safety and this year I am proud to hear, Athlone Community Radio has received an award for promoting Water Safety too, let's all do our part to bring down drownings, at home and abroad.