Though surrounded by lifeguards and instructors, 4-year-old Kerem Guvelioglu sank unnoticed to the bottom of the pool where he was receiving his first summer camp swimming lessons.
The Dallas preschooler wasn’t breathing and had no pulse when he was pulled from the water two years ago. But lifeguards and first responders were able to revive him.
Kerem, now 6, spent days in intensive care after the near drowning, but he eventually made a full recovery.
“After four days of not knowing if he was going to wake up, our son was born again,” his father, Berk Guvelioglu, told parents Tuesday at a pool safety event in Arlington. “Being around water is risky. We need to accept that.”
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Not every child is so lucky. Texas leads the nation in child pool drownings, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. As swim season approaches, North Texas organizers urge parents and caregivers to take simple steps, such as avoiding cellphone distractions, to ensure that a fun day in the water doesn’t turn tragic.
“Drowning is silent. Most people are a few feet from the children when they go into distress underwater,” said Dana Walraven, with Safe Kids Tarrant County, led by Cook Children’s Medical Center. “They are present, but their eyes aren’t actively watching.”
On Tuesday, Safe Kids Tarrant County partnered with the Arlington Fire Department and other organizations to help prevent water-related injuries and deaths by offering free training to families of preschoolers on topics such as performing hands-only CPR and choosing the proper life jacket.
During the event, held at Allen Bolden Pool at Vandergriff Park, participants also witnessed a mock drowning to learn how to help a child found unconscious in the water until first responders arrive.
Keeping a child within the line of sight or within touching distance is one step adults should take to prevent drownings, said Linda DeSanders with the Texas Drowning Prevention Alliance. A child can drown in the time it takes to text a friend, organizers said.
“Most parents think they are watching their kids 24/7. None of us can,” DeSanders said. “We have to be especially vigilant when we are around water.”
Participants received tips such as keeping a cellphone poolside for emergencies, having children wear Coast Guard-approved life vests while boating and designating at least one adult as a “water watcher” during gatherings at a pool. Swimming lessons were also stressed.
“Kids who learn to swim are 88 percent safer than those who don’t,” DeSanders said.