"I will never get the picture out of my head of how my son was. He did not look like my son."

On a sunny day in April of 2006, two-year-old Samuel Morris and his five-year-old sister were playing in their backyard.

Samuel’s mum, Jo-ann Morris, was in and out of the house, hanging washing on the line and keeping a watchful eye on her two children.

“Our daughter who was five at the time, shouted out to her mum, ‘You’ve got to come see this, you’ve got to come see this,'” Samuel’s dad, Michael Morris told Mamamia.

invisible drowning victims
"I will never no matter how hard I try, get the picture out of my head how my son was." Image supplied.

That's when Jo-ann found Samuel face-down in the family's pool. The pool was protected by a sturdy pool fence, but as the family later found out, the toddler discovered a broken panel in the fence and decided to go for a swim.

"I didn’t even get wet until after I scooped Samuel into my arms," Jo-ann wrote in a blog post in 2010. "I rolled him onto his back in my arms, he was heavy, lifeless, swollen, his eyes were bulging and starey, he was foaming at the mouth, blue around his lips and his nose and his skin was a strange pale yellow colour. He did not look like my son.

"I will never no matter how hard I try, get the picture out of my head how my son was. The look, the taste, the smells, the sounds or the feeling will be with me forever."

Jo-ann grabbed her son out of the pool and rushed him to the front yard, where she commenced CPR. A neighbour, and a nurse who was passing by, also helped performed CPR on little Samuel.

Samuel was rushed to Nepean Hospital and then transferred to the intensive care unit at Westmead Children's Hospital.

He was on life support for four days, and after four long months in hospital Samuel was able to return home with his family.

But he was never the same. Samuel suffered a Hypoxic Brain Injury and was left with a range of severe disabilities. His condition worsened over time, and in 2014, Samuel succumbed to his injuries.


Unfortunately, Samuel's story is not uncommon.

invisible drowning victims
Samuel was on life support for four days. Image supplied.

Research into non-fatal drownings by the Royal Life Saving Society of Australia (RLSSA) has found that between 2002 and 2015, 6158 people were admitted to hospital after a non-fatal drowning. And in five per cent of these cases, the injury was so severe, they accounted for around 88 per cent of the $188 million annual cost of treating victims of drowning.

They're the invisible victims of drowning and the RLSSA's research is the first of its kind.

When Samuel suffered his horrific injuries, there was very little information or support around for the Morris family, that's why Michael and Jo-ann founded the Samuel Morris Foundation. They wanted to raise awareness about non-fatal drownings and provide a network of support for families who found themselves in a similar situation.

"We felt really isolated and like we didn't have a group of people around us who'd had that same experience," Michael explained. "You know, we really wanted to be able to share our feelings and ask the questions we needed to ask."

The Morris's did meet other families through the hospital and other support networks, but their circumstances were usually different. While the other non-fatal drowning victims were experiencing an improvement in their condition, Samuel's condition was only getting worse as time went by.

invisible drowning victims
Samuel and Michael. Image supplied.

"That was the reason we set up the foundation, so other families like us could get together and support each other, and we could share our experiences.

"Now we have a network of families from all around the world who are living with the consequences of non-fatal drowning."

The Morris's really want parents to know just how important effective parent supervision is when it comes to pools. They want people to ensure that pool fences are installed correctly and regularly maintained, and they encourage every parent to enroll their kids in swimming lessons while they're still young. They also believe every parent should complete a CPR course - sooner rather than later.

"Without those skills, Samuel would not have survived on the day," Michael said.

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Most importantly, the Morris family wants everyone to become more aware of the invisible victims of drowning.

"We want them to understand that drowning isn't just about children dying or having miraculous survival stories - there's a whole group of children who experience non-fatal drownings and are left with a whole range of devastating injuries.

"There's just so much that can happen to them."

Sarah Hunstead, the managing director of CPR Kids, said CPR is a skill that every parent must have.

"Even though it's unlikely that you'll ever need to perform CPR on your child, it's one of those skills that's an essential part of your parenting toolbox. You never know, you may end up saving someone’s life," she told Mamamia.

Hunstead said parents should follow the DRSABCD seven-step action plan when performing CPR on kids.

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Most importantly, Hunstead says parents need to remember that CPR is not about fixing the problem that caused the child to need CPR.

"Instead, you are the pump that is circulating blood around their body to supply the brain (and other vital organs) with oxygen," she said.

You find out more about the Samuel Morris Foundation here, and you can enroll in a paediatric First Aid course here