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How Almost Drowning Twice Killed The Child In Me



Luis Deliz, Water, Creative Commons

I could have been a statistic. I could have been part of the “one in five people who die from drowning are children 14 and younger.” I was younger than 12 years old when my near drowning’s happened. And ever since then, my adventurous personality and vivacious aura vanished.

Both of my near drowning’s were with my cousin, Emma. All of my family calls her ground zero because she always seems to me in the wrong place at the wrong time when something happens. And this was no exception.

Not a Pool Party 

One cloudy day, we were swimming in my neighbor’s pool. My cousin thought it was a good idea to roll the heavy, plastic cover over the deep end. Then added we should swim under it to get to this tiny hole in the back corner.

At that age, I was not able to fully think of the consequences of my actions. What could go wrong? Is this a smart idea? What if I don’t make it to the hole? All the things that rush through my head now, never dawned on me back then. I just did it.

58% of deaths from drowning occur in an in ground pool, and 75% of deaths happen at a residence. When my cousin and I decided to swim under the cover, I never thought about what could happen.

As I took my big breath and started my swim into the deep end under the cover, I quickly lost all sense of direction. How close was I to the hole? Was I even going in the right direction? I assume I’m almost to the hole, then all of a sudden, “Thud!” “Thud!” I hit the cover. I wasn’t at the hole.

I didn’t know where I was or how to get the opening. I couldn’t hold my breath much longer. The darkness of my closed eyes, the panic throughout my body, I didn’t think anything bad could happen to me, but yet this was it. Then all of a sudden, I shot through the opening, gasping for air, almost in tears. This was the start of my worrisome personality. This moment is what began making my anxiety worse. But it wasn’t the turning point.

The Turning Point

Lake DeGray

Armyman, Lake DeGray, Creative Commons

Two summers later, my family and family friends were gathered at a cabin on Christmas Lake in Minnesota. Emma and I were swimming between the two docks when all of a sudden I hear Emma behind me frantic, “Oh my gosh, Jess, I’m stuck.” The long, clingy seaweed had wrapped itself around Emma’s foot and she couldn’t move, her chin barely above water.

I swim over to her in hopes of helping, but am soon caught in the seaweed too. We can’t free ourselves, struggling to yell for help, flailing our hands in the air. Suddenly, everyone on the grass comes running onto the docks, my dad and uncle jump into the lake to come rescue us.

We get our ankles free and begin swimming to our dads, scared for our lives. I have never felt such panic before than I did in that moment. This was the turning point. A child, who was once so adventurous and outgoing, now feared every activity that had a hint of danger. This may have been a factor of maturing and beginning to think of the consequences that could come about. “Children who suffer from an anxiety disorder experience fear, nervousness, and shyness, and they start to avoid places and activities,” and I avoided everything that had to do with water.

It Changed Me Forever

Amarit Opassetthakul

Amarit Opassetthakul, Leave, Creative Commons

I hate the ocean, I hate lakes with seaweed, and I never go farther than I can touch. Why is it that certain traumatic events can affect one person differently than another? Everyone has experienced some sort of event that was scary, different, life changing and so on. But why did these events ruin me? 18% of our American population suffers from anxiety and about 4% to 5% “has one or more clinically significant phobia in a given year.”

Maybe it is my level of maturity now, or my ability to think and understand the consequences that come with certain actions, but I never do daring things and am hesitant at what are truly fun activities.

I’ve been trying to slowly get over my fear of drowning and fear of water, but it is an uphill battle. I don’t want to be the person on the beach watching everyone swim in the ocean. I don’t want to be the mom who tells her child “no don’t do that” because I am the one who is worried. I don’t want to kill the childish spirit in my own kids. I don’t want me fear to control my life.

It’s time to revive the child in me that disappeared so many years ago. It’s time.


By Jessica Freeman


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The Hub Bub is a collection of articles, videos, audio, photo slideshows, interactive maps and other media produced by students enrolled in journalism courses at Loyola University Chicago's School of Communication. For more about the School of Communication, our award winning faculty, and our state of the art facilities located in the heart of Chicago, visit our website.