WA­TER SAFETY

Dubbo Photo News - - Front Page - By YVETTE AUBUSSON-FO­LEY

The dan­gers of Shal­low Wa­ter Black­out

IF you’re sit­ting by your back­yard pool keep­ing an eye on the lit­tlies, be just as vig­i­lant for your older, more con­fi­dent swim­mers too.

A con­di­tion known as Shal­low Wa­ter Black­out (SWB) has claimed lives, in­clud­ing the son of Tony and Judy Fisher from Parkes, whose 12-year-old son Nic passed away in 2001 un­der un­ex­plain­able cir­cum­stances at that time.

“He was a con­fi­dent swim­mer and wa­ter skier, but the com­pet­i­tive game of hold­ing breath un­der wa­ter re­peat­edly – which we’d all been do­ing that day – is how he died. We were there, sit­ting by the pool,” Mrs Fisher told Dubbo Photo News.

Nic was swim­ming in chest height wa­ter at the time, play­ing the game of who could stay un­der the long­est. De­spite at­tempts to re­vive him there was noth­ing they could do.

“Brain death in Shal­low Wa­ter Black­out typ­i­cally takes twoand-a-half min­utes. We just didn’t know,” Mrs Fisher said.

To learn the ex­act rea­son Nic had died, the Fish­ers and ex­tended fam­ily and friends would have to wait 10 years un­til an­other boy who was a healthy, con­fi­dent swim­mer died in 2013 in sim­i­lar cir­cum­stances. His death was ex­plained as SWB.

Pro­longed un­der­wa­ter breath hold­ing is deadly due to the toxic com­bi­na­tion of hy­per­ven­ti­la­tion, metabolised oxy­gen and in­creased car­bon diox­ide caus­ing black out.

Ac­cord­ing to the Shal­low Wa­ter Black­out Pre­ven­tion group, in­creased car­bon diox­ide nor­mally trig­gers a breath, but be­cause oxy­gen lev­els are so low on sub­mer­sion (due to hy­per­ven­ti­la­tion) there is not enough to ini­ti­ate a breath and the swim­mer loses con­scious­ness.

The body re­acts and forces a breath caus­ing the lungs to fill with wa­ter, and with­out an im­me­di­ate res­cue drown­ing oc­curs.

“The key mes­sage we’re try­ing to get across is this is not about learn­ing to swim. It’s not lit­tle kids drown­ing ac­ci­den­tally. It’s when they’re in their late teens, 20s, early 30s, and they’re con­fi­dent swim­mers but they’re com­pet­i­tive and this hap­pens be­cause they’re un­aware,” Mrs Fisher said.

“We’re ab­so­lutely not try­ing to wreck your fun but just be aware of what can be hap­pen­ing to your body with repet­i­tive breath hold­ing, over and over,” Mrs Fisher said.

“If only we’d known. We were all do­ing it our­selves. For peo­ple with a pool at home, please spread the word. Dis­play one of the signs at your back­yard pool to cre­ate con­ver­sa­tions around them,” she said.

“This re­ally has only had a name for the last seven years and hope­fully as time passes more peo­ple will be­come aware.

“Even to­day we’ll hear about a healthy, fit swim­mer drown­ing and we’ll think, there’s an­other one,” Mrs Fisher said.

“Nic had only just fin­ished pri­mary school. Hope­fully, this in­for­ma­tion and the signs will make a dif­fer­ence,” Mrs Fisher said.

To or­der warn­ing signs ($30) or re­ceive in­for­ma­tion about Shal­low Wa­ter Black­out to share in schools or com­mu­nity groups, con­tact Judy Fisher by email at fisher23@big­pond.com.

Tony and Judy Fisher hold warn­ing signs about breath hold­ing in the hope of spread­ing word that Shal­low Wa­ter Black­out can be pre­vented with aware­ness. Their son Nic, aged 12, died in 2001 of SWB. PHOTO: DUBBO PHOTO NEWS

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