Friday, March 12, 2010

Parents, Watch your children

*Update: The little girl died a week later. Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi rajioon (we belong to Allah and to Him we return)*

I watched a little girl drown today, in the Pool at Marina Bandar Rowdah. I think she was about 8 years old, with long brown hair, a cute smile, and creamy, light brown skin.

She drowned right in front of me, right beside my swimming, breathing, squealing daughter, there, in the shallow end of the pool, where she could have just stood up, in her little white panties. Eyes wide open, arms drifting restlessly, hair splayed around her head, and a flotilla of bubbles leaking from her nose and mouth.

The last I saw of her she was being carried away, with blue lips, and a blue face, in the blue clad arms of the responding Paramedics. I heard they managed to get her back in the Ambulance, but as she was not breathing for 15+ minutes, I suspect there is a chance of brain damage. Maybe she died, I don't know.

I, for my part, watched her drown, and didn't realise what was happening. Drowning in real life looks absolutely nothing like what you, or I might imagine it to. There was no screaming, no thrashing, no splashing. There was just this gorgeous little girl, swimming gracefully around under water, slowly drowning, there in the shallow end of the pool.

It's my fault as much as it is anyones. The little drowning girl swam over to my daughter, and grabbed her, trying to pull herself up, or as my daughter and I perceived it, pulling my daughter under. My daughter yelped, screamed, and then the kid let go, and rolled over in the water, facing me. She looked right at me, eyes wide as dinner plates, and face placid and calm.

I, dismissing what was going on as standard-issue pool roughhousing, looked at this placid faced, underwater, eyes wide open child, and she looked back at me, locked eyes with me, and I didn't see it. I, asshole that I am, wagged my finger at the drowning, dying kid, and said (in a scolding voice that I'm sure she couldn't hear, being under water, and fucking drowning) "don't do that!" It never even crossed my mind that she might be drowning.

Distracted, by my daughter's yelping about something or other, gathered my kid up, and took her over to our table to strip off her water wings and get her changed to go home. As I gathered her up, I looked into the pool, and there was the girl, floating about a foot beneath the surface, bend over sort of backwards in the water, eyes staring at the sky, and little bubbles rising from her nose and mouth. And I thought to myself, "kids are so universally weird. I used to do that!" and then, wait for it. I WALKED AWAY. I walked away.

About a minute later all hell broke loose, when a friend noticed that the little girl was no longer swimming around under water, but was laying motionless on the bottom of the pool, eyes wide open.

I don't know if her parents were even aware that she was in the pool. They were sitting at the next table over to Stone, facing the Marina, not the pool. I don't know if the kid could swim, or not. I don't know if something else happened to her that precipitated the drowning. I do know that the kid was in the pool splashing around, and then drowning, for 15 minutes or more and that there was not a parent nearby, directly supervising.

There were 5-8 Adults in the pool at the time, and about 20-30 kids of varying sizes swimming around, screaming, laughing, jumping, fighting over toys, and splashing. There were maybe another 12 parents / adults watching the pool and kids, or sitting nearby. Not one of us realized the kid was drowning.

The Marina Staff were beyond useless. Flailing around, continuing to take orders for food, and standing by staring, as this little girl lay on the deck, not breathing, and various customers attempted to take control. A couple of Expat Women started CPR, and rolled the girl over on her side when she vomited. A guest in an Abaya came over and took over CPR, while other guests and staff from the some of the dive boats ran for their medical kit stored on the boats.

The Resuscitation equipment, when it arrived, came not from the marina, but from one of the Diving outfits who have boats at the Marina. The Marina staff, while well meaning, were totally clueless as to what to do about it. I pulled one of the senior guys aside about five minutes after they dragged the girl out of the pool, and asked if anyone had called an ambulance. he said, "No Need, those people over there are doing CPR?" I think I swore at him, then we called the ambulance. they showed up in ten minutes or so, it was a pretty fast response.

The Marina has plenty of signage pointing pointing out that swimming is at your own risk, and that they are not responsible for supervising your actions in the pool. The Marina does not have a lifeguard on duty, and I don't really think it would have changed anything, as there were so many people in the pool and so many kiddies running around. I don't think having a life guard would save many lives as it would only enable parents to pay even less attention to their children.

That said, the Marina did not appear to have any life saving equipment on hand near the pool, nor did they have any staff who are competent and CPR trained nearby. The little girl is only alive (or dead?) thanks to the heroics of the customers and the staff from a local dive company. It is pretty Obvious that the Marina has not drilled their staff on how to respond to a drowning incident or any other medical emergency. While I suspect that they do indeed have staff trained in CPR and first response, they were nowhere near where they were needed during the critical 15-20 minutes of the crisis.

My daughter has marks on her butt and thighs where the little girl grabbed her. It's unsettling. She keeps asking what happened to the girl. I don't have answers that go beyond the strictly scientific explanations of CPR and how drowning happens. How do you explain that to a three year old? As for me, I have the picture of the kid looking right at me, eyes locked onto mine, while I scolded her for trying to save herself.

Parents, watch your children.

Regarding commenting: While I understand that it isn't my fault, I cannot begin to tell you what a total asshole I feel like. I really fucked this one up, I just totally missed it. I already know I am an Asshole, so i don't need to hear it from you, and likewise, don't need to have a bunch of sunshine blown up my ass by well meaning friends. Cool?


Anonymous said...

this is my first blog response
how are you functioning?
i would be having nightmares round the clock
i heard about this at the beauty salon
i am going to go sit on the couch and cry
i really cannot fathom wittnessing this as you did
i just want to vomit on the parents!
i am sure they have vomited on themselves!!!
i always think my kids are fish but as you said it's not like the movies no thrashing around
this country has a very long way to go
there were only 2 schools in the entire country in 1970
you cannot go from kerosene to microwaves in one generation and not have some serious gaps in the society, all the money some of these people have doesn't necessarily give them IQ
InshAllah this little girl will have some impact on the poor state of pools/lifeguards in Oman. I lived at Oasis and a little boy drowned there last year because the pools are just left open 24/7.from a Muslim American Abaya scarf wearing. CPR cerified!!!

Louise said...

The situation with the drowning is horrendous.
I have only recently moved to the country and it is very apparent that the water safety message needs to be flagged up.

In the UK I teach lifesaving and lifesupport skills for the Royal Lifesaving Society.

I don't want to be too reactive but would like to offer some basic training to parents and adults in the area. Feeling helpless is a horrible feeling.

Suburban said...

For those of you who are interested in an Update on the Girl: she's 8 years old, and still in a Coma in the ICU as of this morning.

Anon, Thanks for the comment. I'm doing fine thanks, I have seen much worse, but I have to admit I was pretty shaken up about it on Friday. Poor, Poor, Girl.

My mother and I both found the quote "from Kerosene to Microwaves" to be rather poetic.


I don't think you are being too reactive at all. I, and a number of other people would really really like to take a lifesaving and CPR course. We'd be happy to pay you for your time.

Can you please Email me?


Letha said...

Your post brought back memories of a childhood incident when a cousin and I almost drowned in front of his mom and another aunt. Also, we were with several cousins and my own brothers in the water, but no one understood we were drowning till someone from the neighbourhood realised something was amiss. It was not a swimming pool, but a river near my mom's ancestral home, where we had all gathered from around the world for a family get together.

I was only 12 then but I still shudder at the desperation with which I tried to keep my hand up hoping against hope someone would spot us even as I was drowning. Of course my cousin wouldn't have been drowning if I had not grabbed him and refused to let go despite frantic kicks. Anyways, thanks to an alert local who raised alarm and jumped in we were saved in the nick of time.

Despite the best efforts of everyone both my cousin and I refuse to enter even a swimming pool till date.

Anonymous said...

How incredibly sad and how typical of Marina Banana.
When a horrible accident four years ago left another young girl terribly injured after falling from the front of a boat and going under it's propellers, the very wealthy and very responsible family who owned the boat offered the Marina (and therefore the Tourism Ministry) to FUND FULLY AND PERMANENTLY a full time ambulance station AT THE MARINA, to ensure that any future accident victim had a better chance at life. Their offer was rejected by none other than the majority owners of the Marina, the Ministry of Tourism.
Nice, huh.
Incidentally, in that situation as well it was the local dive operator whose expertise and equipment helped the expat doctor who just HAPPENED to be on site to keep the kid alive until the ambulance got there.
Obviously, she was luckier than the poor child you saw.
And a year before that, my own father died of a heart attack on the pontoon. The Marina Manager of the day actually STOPPED our own staff from administering CPR. And then left the country.
To be fair, we have no idea if CPR (or anything else) could have saved him. But I'll never get over the fact that no one was allowed to TRY.
In the words of the song, when will they ever learn?
You know who I am, but you'll also know why I'm signing as Anonymous.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot said...

Hi Suburban,

I was just introduced to your blog recently... from a friend's link on FB regarding the girl who drowned.

About a year ago, while watching my kids swimming in that pool, a young housemaid was playing with the kids that she was supposed to be watching (reliving her childhood I think?). She jumped in the deep end and after a while, I noticed that she was about to drown... I jumped in to save her in my clothes and all. She was fine, thank god! And for a brief second, I was a hero, I guess.

So here's 3 things:

1) WATCH YOUR CHILDREN and don't rely on a housemaid who doesn't know how to swim to watch them,
2) this pool needs a LIFEGUARD, and 3) have any other drownings or near drowning experiences happened there recently?

Suburban said...

Leta and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Thanks to both of you for the comments!

Anon, I was really hoping you would comment on this, given your experiences. Thanks so much.

Anonymous said...

just to make some issues clear:
1- people drown all over the world and not just here in Oman. it has nothing to do with " kerosene to microwave"
2- neglect and lack of compassion is what it is all about, which again exists all over the world and not just here in oman. All the blame is on the little girl's parents who neglected her.
3- the woman who watched the little girl drowning. i think she was so full of herself, and just chose to ignore the little drowning girl. maybe if the little girl had blond hair the watcher would have done something. but seeing brown hair she thought of her as an ignorant omani or arab girl and just let her drown.

Suburban said...


Glad you dropped by "to make some issues clear". Nice.

Regarding points 1 & 2) This post isn't about Oman. I would be writing exactly the same post if I had witnessed this in Africa, India, America, or Europe.

Regarding point 3) you are a sick, sad, morally bankrupt individual, and your accusations are both baseless, and bordering on insane. I am not responsible for her death, full stop. Your implication that I deliberately allowed a child to drown because of what YOU assume her race to be says far more about your fucked up perception of the world, than it does about me.

The little girl looked exactly like I did at her age. Long dark hair, coffee colored skin, a scrawny collection of knees and elbows, with thin lips. She, just like I used to do, was swimming around underwater, with no real signs of distress. I used to float for ages, staring up at the bubbles rising from my nose, and enjoying the peaceful sensation of being underwater.

Yes, I missed it, but it had nothing to do with the fact that I am standoffish, or full of myself.

It's a shame you didn't have the balls to say this to my face, since you know exactly who I am. How pathetic.

Anonymous said...

I heard day before yesterday that the little girl did indeed pass away.
And no media coverage?

The MET said...

Kind writers and readers.

I am shocked by the defensive attitude I detect in the comment of Anonymous a day or so back. Clearly he/she has issues he/she needs to deal with. And to hijack this tragedy / this blog for that purpose is shameful.

1. I am probably older than many who read this blog and I have lived here and there on the planet. In my time and my observations, I have NEVER before noted the same dis regard, for the danger open water poses, as here in Muscat. Swimming pools and the ocean must be thought of as fun, but potentially lethal.

2. I did not personally witness what went on at the pool the day of the drowning, but I cannot believe that racism on the part of Sub Urban had ANYTHING to do with what went down. Again: Anonymous, I think you have unresolved issues and you need to deal with them, but not here.

3. What we all need to do now is actively work on how to prevent future pool drownings.
PARENTS always sit right at pool side and watch yr kids when they are in the water. Equip them with water wings / floatation devices. Learn to swim yourself AND get yr kids swimming lessons.
POOL OWNERS need to hire and train life guards to watch for and rescue swimmers in trouble.
CLUB OWNERS need to have an emergency plan that includes at the top of the list: "Call an ambulance." [CPR immediately is great, but prompt ambulance response is the best.]

My thoughts are with the drowning victim, her family and with Sub Urban and others who witnessed the tragedy and are working to improve things in Oman.

The MET Office

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately the young girl did pass away on Monday. Marina Banana now have a lifegaurd on duty but I suspect that, like the last one, he will be dispensed with after a month or so.
There is a piece in The Week about it.

Dr. David Ball said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
F.A said...

So sad,i think we need more education to parents on how to take/let the kids take care of themselves,it starts on a very young age and has to do do with trust btn parents and kids.
Inshallah hope nothing will happened again.