A broken-hearted mom's plea to the American Academy of Pediatrics
This is a picture of all 3 of my children at their last well-child visits in April.
(Levi was definitely smothered with big-sister love).
Dear American Academy of Pediatrics members,
I want to start by saying I love and respect my children’s pediatrician very much. My husband is an anesthesiologist, and I have many friends who are pediatricians. I believe in the medical community’s impact in both big and small ways.
As an English teacher, I depend on the National Council of Teachers of English, my state standards, and other national and state resources to help me prioritize what I teach. My husband is an anesthesiologist, and he depends on the American Society of Anesthesiologists to help guide him as a physician. Pediatricians across the country depend on the AAP to provide them with research-based guidelines and information to share with parents. Parents, in turn, depend on those pediatricians to guide them as they navigate parenting: from advising parents on when to start solid food to helping them as they contend with adolescent hormones.
I have been very grateful for the resources, love, and guidance provided by my children’s pediatrician. I cannot emphasize that enough.
However, I feel that there is a void of clear and accurate information being shared with parents in the area of drowning prevention. I hope that by reaching out to you, I can help change this for future parents.
My 3 year old son, Levi, drowned on June 10, 2018 when he slipped away from us for moments when we were cleaning up from dinner. I had just split a brownie with him- a very small one with one bite for each of us. When I found him (out a heavy door and down a spiral staircase) in the deep end, the other half of the brownie was still in my mouth. We had 5 anesthesiologists and an ophthalmologist on our trip. They initiated CPR immediately and intubated him all before the ambulance even arrived. They got a pulse back, he was airlifted, but we lost him.
I am an educated, involved mom. I am the Girl Scout leader, the "Room Mom." My husband is a physician, the softball coach, the school volunteer. I read EVERYTHING about parenting. I have read books (highlighted, tabbed), articles, and news stories. I have read every single piece of paper word-for-word that my pediatrician has provided for the last 9 years (the age of my oldest child).
After we lost Levi, I started researching and was baffled, frustrated, and even more heartbroken by what I discovered. I feel as if the AAP treats drowning as an afterthought. I found myself almost physically looking around, in my head and in my house, for the information on drowning. I must have misplaced it. It has to be here. Where is it?
But, there is very little information being shared. I know from personal experience, and from the thousands of mothers who have contacted me, that water safety is not being adequately discussed in pediatrician offices. And, I truly feel like it’s not their fault. Pediatricians have thousands of topics to discuss, be knowledgeable of, and be able to share with parents. They depend on the AAP to help them prioritize what to discuss and to help guide them during well-child visits. Thousands of moms have reached out to me, saying the same thing every time: “I had NO idea. Why is nobody talking about real drowning? Why does this not come up at my well-child visits?”
I am reaching out to you to beg you to initiate a true drowning prevention program. Please. It cannot bring back my son, but I cannot sit back and read more stories every day about a child that drowned (quickly, silently, during a non-swim time) and read about how the parents didn’t know. I know it seems obvious that drowning can happen, that it is clearly a danger. But, we also know that car wrecks are a potential danger, yet, car safety is constantly emphasized.
I would like to be involved. I am not a pediatrician, but I am creative, have strong writing skills, and I am a mom. Most importantly, my motivation, which rises from the deepest places of love and heartache, is a force. I am a mother who wishes I had known the real truth about drowning before it was too late. I have so many ideas. Please let me help.
I want to share a few screenshots from the AAP’s FaceBook Page and the healthychildren.org site. I do not want this email to feel like an attack. I want to be part of this team, part of the solution. But, I have to share exactly why I’m frustrated and confused. The current “drowning initiative” seems insufficient and ineffective.
It appears that the extent of the “drowning initiative” is 3 posts over 3 years? For a leading (preventable) cause of death.
One of the 3 posts has a link that doesn’t work.
This article (one of the 3) says that water wings and puddle jumpers don’t work.
And, yet- in this picture, they are wearing puddle jumpers.
When I search on healthychildren.org, this is what comes up- an article from 2017 and one from 2004. I truly do not want this to seem like an attack, but I just feel like a national organization dedicated to children’s well-being can do better.
And, this. This is the real kicker. I can’t sleep at night because I miss my son. I can’t sleep because I’m imagining his final seconds. I can’t sleep because I’m trying to figure out why I did not know the real truth about drowning- that it is silent and quick and happening during non-swim times. When I can’t sleep, I keep coming back to this article. This article is the one that is shared the most often. I guess it’s the “go-to” when you need an article on drowning. I feel physically sick every time I look at it. You are the AAP. You set the standards and priorities for physicians across the country. Those physicians, in turn, guide parents in how best to keep their children safe. You are powerful, and while I am fueled by pain (and, admittedly, anger), I know more can be done to effectively prevent drowning.
This specific article above:
1. Is boring. Parents are not going to waste precious reading time on this article.
2. Is insulting. Is a parent truly going to go through this mental checklist to see if their kid is drowning? “Eyes closed / not using legs”
3. And the list is the worst part, because it just validates to everyone what they think drowning is- that there will be TIME. That there is a struggle. I guarantee when my precious baby boy, our cherished son and baby brother, fell into the deep end, he did not “appear to be climbing an invisible ladder.” He would have gasped, started crying, breathed in water, and sank to the bottom- silently and quickly.
I know I am coming on strong. I truly hope I have expressed how much I believe in your power and influence; that is why I’m reaching out to you. I know the AAP has thousands of issues to share and research. I promise I understand. But, drowning is the #1 cause of accidental death in 1-4 year olds and #2 in ages 1-14. It is 100% preventable. Clearly, this current system of just assuming parents know about drowning isn’t working.
Can we please treat drowning like we treat putting the baby back to sleep, vaccinations, and car seat safety? Drowning is just as deadly and just as preventable.
Thank you for reading. I truly hope that my words come across as a pleading request from a broken hearted mother who wants to help initiate change. I am grateful for the influence and love from my own pediatrician. And, I know most parents feel that way. We trust them. Please help set the tone for water safety discussions.
I have ideas. I am ready. Please reach out to me.