Non-fatal drownings

There is a common misconception that all drownings result in a fatality, but did you know that for every drowning death there are many non fatal drowning incidents? A new range of new research on non-fatal drowning was unveiled at the World Conference on Drowning Prevention in Perth last week, and the findings were concerning.

It is estimated that for every one of the 236,000 people who fatally drown each year globally, another three people are hospitalised after being resuscitated. Some are unaffected, some have minor injuries and learning disabilities and the most unfortunate suffer lifelong injuries.The World Health Organisation’s Dr David Meddings, the lead on drowning prevention, suggested that this could mean that fatal and non-fatal drownings kill and injure as many as a million people a year.

Previously, all non fatal drownings have been grouped together with the same definition, regardless of the impact the incident has had upon the victims life. Dr Meddings unveiled a new classification system at the conference that could be used to better identify and support people who had experienced a non-fatal drowning, ranging from mild, for someone with temporary distress, to someone with severe injuries and disability. The new classification system will allow further research about the treatment and long-term health outcomes of on fatal drownings.

Australian researcher Dr Amy Peden said that “In Australia, for every child under five who fatally drowns, an estimated eight children are brought back to life”. In a NSW review of people aged 0-25 admitted to hospital from July 1, 2001, to March 31, 2019, with a diagnosis or cause of death saying drowning or immersion, 1934 cases were identified. Of these, 1871 survived. Slightly more than half were under five years old.

The Samuel Morris Foundation was established locally in March 2007, and is Australia’s first charity providing support services to children disabled by non-fatal drowning (or other hypoxic brain injuries). Samuel Morris was a “bright and happy two year old” until 9th April 2006 when he had a non-fatal drowning in the families backyard pool. As a result of this accident Samuel experienced a severe Hypoxic Brain Injury and was left with a range of severe disabilities. Tragically, Samuel died aged 10 in 2014, however the Samuel Morris Foundation continues to raise funds and awareness to help others.

Accidents happen. Please focus on the layers of protection this summer to keep your children as safe as possible – teach them to swim, supervise closely, fence the pool and shut the gate, and make sure to learn CPR in case of emergency.