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"There was no pulse. No heartbeat."

Do you think swimming lessons should be compulsory?

After a significant rise in the number of young people drowning in Australia, there has been a call for compulsory swimming lessons at primary schools.

According to the Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS), 371 people aged between 15 and 24 drowned between 2002 and 2012 (a 25 per cent increase on previous decades).

CEO Rob Bradley says that many children are no longer taught basic swimming skills, and 20 per cent of kids leaving primary school in coming months will be unable to stay afloat for two minutes.

The organisation also believes many families simply can’t afford swimming lessons and having them as part of the curriculum would be one way to ensure all children receive training.

This post by Anabelle Cottee is a poignant reminder of the importance of water safety. She writes:

Ten years ago, I watched my baby brother’s lifeless body being pulled out of our family swimming pool by my devastated older sister.

I remember standing there, watching in disbelief, as she carried our precious Lachie inside. He was grey with blue lips and completely limp. There was no pulse. No heartbeat.

My sister, only 13 at the time, desperately tried to remember the CPR she had learnt in school while Mum called the ambulance. But all she could say was, “Please help me. My baby was in the pool. Please, please help me.”

My sister cleared Lachie’s airways and he immediately began vomiting torrents of water. But he still wasn’t breathing. Time stopped. Mum’s fingers pressed furiously on Lachie’s chest as she took instructions from the 000 operator over the phone. We finally heard three ambulances scream up the driveway, just as Lachie quietly gasped his first breath. A horde of paramedics rushed in, moving us away from him.

An officer positioned a mask over Lachie’s face. He scooped up my limp brother, and placed him in the back of an ambulance. Mum followed in front of another one – she wasn’t allowed to be with him. My siblings and I stayed at home.

Then there was silence.

I slumped to the ground, wondering how something like this could happen to my beautiful two-year-old brother. We had all been with him all afternoon, cheering him on as he managed to swim a few metres in between my mother and sister without his floaties.

Mum had been with him the whole time. How could this have happened?

We later found out that Lachie, determined as he still is, had let himself back into the pool that afternoon through the faulty pool gate without any of us knowing. We guess he had wanted to practice his swimming again. Mum had dressed and bathed him, and left him sitting with my other siblings who were watching a movie while she cooked dinner.

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Annabelle with her brother Lachie

She and Dad had begged the landlord for weeks to fix the faulty gate, but nothing had been done. If they had just fixed that bloody gate, maybe we wouldn’t have been in this situation.

Royal Life Saving recently released a shocking new statistic, estimating that 85 per cent of home pools fail to meet safety standards, including with fencing or gates.

They said that many people often think that their pool fence is safe but wear and tear, weather damage or ground erosion may create an unexpected weakness.

If our gate had shut as it was supposed to have done, Lachie wouldn’t have been able to find his way back into the pool. And he wouldn’t have nearly drowned.

Lachie was in hospital for a month after his accident, spending two weeks in Intensive Care on life support. He suffered two cardiac arrests (one en route to the hospital), four respiratory arrests and a stroke, which left him temporarily paralysed down the left side of his body. We were asked to donate his organs twice.

Miraculously, our little angel pulled through, defying the statistics. He had been under water for at least five minutes, and we lived at least half an hour away from the nearest hospital.

Ten years later, Lachie is the person we always thought he would be. He is bubbly, sensitive and caring. He’s also sharp as a tack, and amazes me with his wisdom. He is incredibly resilient; he doesn’t let things knock him down.

After a few years in physiotherapy and occupational therapy, Lachie regained full use of his left side. He has no brain damage, and is a normal, healthy child in Year 8 at school. He is our angel, and we’re lucky to have him.

Royal Life Saving’s new figures showed that almost 30 children under the age of Australia have drowned in the past year. But for the quick thinking of my older sister, Lachie could have been one of those statistics. Don’t let it happen to you.

Several websites have information on ways to help reduce the number of drownings.

There is information at homepoolsafety.com.au and keepwatch.com.au.

Home owners are being urged to examine their home pools thoroughly and a checklist also is available at the homepoolsafety.com.au website.

Annabelle Cottee works in the media and communications industry and has a particular affinity for tea, vanilla gelato and the ocean (not necessarily at the same time). She sporadically tweets at @annabellecottee, but is much more often found stalking Ryan Gosling memes on Tumblr.

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