18 seconds: Sharing a family tragedy to save children from drowning

Last week was Memorial Day, which is supposed to be a day that we remember those who died so that others may live.

Many, in the ignorant bliss afforded them by those who made that sacrifice, see the day only as “the unofficial start of summer.” Their ignorance even prompts the morose and mutually exclusive words, “Happy Memorial Day.” But in my family, this day has a different meaning.

Joanie Logan was only three-years-old, but she had a presence you could not ignore. As smart as she was beautiful, she was the child that people would say is going to be something someday.

Her someday was taken from her six years ago last weekend.

In a crowded pool, at a private club in the Philadelphia suburbs, Joanie Logan drowned.

No one in the pool that day, no one in her family, will ever be the same. Joanie Logan’s father, Danny, is my nephew.

I will never forget being in their home later on that fateful day, as the family surrounded both Danny and his wife Katie with love and support. I have never seen, never felt such unadulterated pain.

I’m sharing this story with you in hopes that you may learn something from our family’s tragedy. That maybe this story can save the someday of another child.

Joanie’s parents lost sight of her for just a few seconds. She had wandered out into the deep end following some of the big girls. When they spotted her, she was already floating lifeless in the water.

Through the fog of her shock, Joanie’s mother, Katie, heard a doctor at the hospital say that with a child that small it can take only 18 seconds to drown.

The very next day, Katie stood in the shower and silently counted to 18. In isolation, 18 seconds seems to take an eternity. But in a crowded pool, with all its distractions, 18 seconds goes by in a flash.

A little girl is there, and then she’s gone in 18 seconds.

Drowning is the second leading cause of death for children 5-years-old and younger. Thousands of children will die from drowning this summer. All can be prevented.

It is important to know that when a child drowns there may be no screaming or splashing. It can be eerily silent.

In panic, the child gasps for air. His or her lungs fill with water and he or she is unable to make a sound. There is no splashing because the child’s arms are being used under the water to keep his or her head above the water.

At a glance, the child may look perfectly fine, bobbing in the water; but the child is silently drowning.

If you see a small child bobbing in the water, just ask, “Are you OK?” If you don’t get an answer, get the child out of the water immediately.

There were over a hundred people in the pool that day that Joanie died. Anyone of them could have been a hero. But, alas, there were none that day.

It is so easy to lose sight of a child. We have all done it, at a mall, a beach or a crowded pool. And as time passes, the parental panic of awful possibilities fills one’s entire being. In the vast majority of cases, it turns out just fine, with a hug, tears and “Where have you been?”

But sometimes it doesn’t turn out fine.

Please be aware this summer and every summer that you need to watch your child every second that he or she is in the water. Because that water, that looks so inviting, at a beach, a pool or in your backyard, can take your child in the time it takes you to answer a text, run to the bathroom or turn to talk to a friend.

I know you think you have the time. Sometimes you don’t.

Sometimes you only have 18 seconds. 

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