20 Seconds

This post is sponsored by Nuffnang.

Sometimes 20 seconds can change the course of your life. There are moments in your life that are so significant that when you look back at them even years later, you see them in slow motion. {Click through to the blog to see the 20 seconds video if you are reading via email.}

For me a moment like that happened about 17 years ago. I was waiting at the airport and my boyfriend at the time was supposed to pick me up. He was late and I thought he wasn’t going to show. I was going to leave but hung on for just a little bit longer, when I saw him.

He was rushing towards me looking frazzled, but handsome in a tuxedo. And he had a ring and he asked me to marry him.


It was this moment that put me on track to the wonderful life I have today with Mr I.  This moment changed my life for the better, but moments, 20 seconds to precise can end in devastation.

20 seconds and 5 centimetres of water is all it takes for a toddler to drown. Drowning is the biggest preventable cause of death for Australian children under the age of five.

Back when our eldest child was only about four, I was at a local swimming pool with him and his younger brother. We were in the deeper end of the pool, where he couldn’t touch the ground. He had the ability to swim away from the edge on his own and return safely.

At one stage the toddler who I was holding started crying. I turned my attention to the toddler to see what was wrong and in the few seconds I did this, something happened. I still don’t know what, but the four year old panicked and he went under the water.  As I was standing right next to him, I felt his arm grab out at me, but what I remember so vividly from this incident was how there was no sound. I had heard that drowning was silent but imagined there must be some splashing sound or something I would hear if I was that close to him. But I didn’t hear a single thing.  Had I not been standing near him and felt his hand touch me, the outcome could have been so different.  A few seconds of me not paying attention could have been fatal.

In that moment I learnt that constant supervision and being close to my kids in the water is critical to keeping them safe.  More than 70% of child drowning deaths are due to inadequate parental supervision. The Life Saving Victoria Drowning Report for 2011/12 has some pretty startling statistics:

Children aged 0-4 years and adults aged over 60 years have the highest age-specific drowning rates. This year 3 children aged 0-4 years and 9 adults aged over 60 years drowned in Victoria.

There was also a decrease in the drowning rate in each age group from 2006-2011 compared with 2001-2006, except the 5-14 year age group. This age group saw a 68% increase in the 5 year average drowning rate in 2006-2011 compared to the 5 year average rate for 2001-2006. The drowning rate of 5-14 year olds is now similar to that of 15-24 year olds.

Children aged 0-4 years remain at greatest risk of drowning with the highest age-specific rate of non-fatal drowning 10.83 per 100,000 (2001-2011) followed by 2.08 for 15-24 year olds and 1.99 for 5-14 year olds. There has been an increase in hospitalisations in children aged 5-14 years in more recent years, with an average drowning rate from 2001-2006 of 1.84 increasing to 2.15 in 2006-2011, an increase of 17%.

With all of our children falling in the high risk categories being aged from 3 – 14, this report was a stark reminder to me that as we come up to the time of year where we will be spending plenty of time in the water, I cannot get lax on my supervision because I think they can swim.

Nor can I assume that the older ones are capable of looking out for the younger ones in the water. 20 seconds is all it takes for a toddler to drown and kids in the water are too easily distracted to be given that type of responsibility. In the words of Mad Eye Moody from Harry Potter, when kids are in the water it is a case of “constant vigilance” for parents.

Enjoy the water this summer and keep safe.