The impact was jaw rattling. The pain that followed excruciating. It burst from the point of impact, my face, and echoed through my skull and traveled down my spine. My body went loose. I sunk down, down, down into the warm water and into the darkness of unconsciousness. The more the black enveloped me the more distant the pain grew. It was a relief. Just like falling asleep. Just like exhaling for the last time.
Then a gentle voice was there in my head, talking to me, saying, “Oh, no Stephanie hold on. Stay here.” …
This was a few years ago, when I was taking my Master’s at Vermont College of Fine Arts. I was deep into my 3rd writing packet and had 40 pages of a YA novel to write while on a family vacation at the incredible Bass ProShop Resort in Massachusetts.
So, there I was madly typing in our log cabin and Pat and the kids were off swimming in the luxury pools, taking part in a fishing derby, mini putting… basically enjoying themselves. When 9pm rolled around my shoulder was killing me from all the typing and my bottom was sore.
I looked up from my computer and said, “Who wants to come swimming with me at the pool?” No one stirred. The twins were asleep in their beds, my older two were engrossed in a tv show and my husband was flaked out in the other room.
“Come on you guys,” I said, but no one moved. So, I put my bathing suit on under my clothes, grabbed my towel and headed for the pool.
The night was warm and when I arrived I expected to see lots of other people taking advantage of the warm, lit pool. But there was not a soul.
I thought, “How lovely I have the whole pool to myself!”
I slipped into the warm water and it felt so good on my stiff shoulder and back. I played around in the water. I had forgotten my goggles, but did a bit of slow Freestyle anyways to work out the kinks. Then some breaststroke. Some backstroke. And finally some butterfly.
One stroke butterfly, two strokes, three strokes and BAM!
I’m still not sure to this day exactly how I so completely misjudged the distance to the pool wall, but I DID! When I came up for a breath in my third stroke of butterfly (this means my chin was up out of the water, my arms out on either side of my body lifting over the water) I hit the ceramic pool edge straight on in that little space between the bottom of your nose and your top lip! You know that spot just under your nose they teach you in a self defense class to hit your attackers as hard as you can so that their eyes water and they will be in such excruciating pain that they will release you immediately? Well ya, that spot!
It felt like my jaw rattled in my head and I thought I had knocked out my front teeth. There was a burst of pain up through my nose and everything began to go black.
The black started to engulf me and I was relieved that the pain seemed to be fading as a began to go unconscious.
Then, there was that voice and it warned me to stay conscious, and I did.
As I came up from the darkness and up to the air, the pain returned and I took my first gasping breath. My eyes watered uncontrollably. When I could muster it, I stood up, opened my eyes. There was still no one around.
At first I was relived that no one had witnessed my face-first crash into the side of the pool, then it dawned on me how narrowly I had escaped falling unconscious and drowning.
When I returned to our room, I went straight to Pat and woke him up. I was holding my towel over my mouth and nose. I told my groggy husband what had happened and lowered the towel so he could see the damage just under my nose.
“What?” he said, “What did you do? I don’t see anything there.”
I ran off towards the bathroom and looked in the mirror. Sure enough he was right! Not a mark on me! Not even a red spot where I had hit under my nose!
Could you imagine if I had fallen unconscious, drown and some random person had found me hours later? When the autopsy was completed on my body they would have had no idea how I, a woman who has raced in a 5km open water swim, drowned in water where I could easily touch the bottom!
Why am I telling you this? I’m sharing my story with you because the truth is random things can happen in the water, even to a proficient swimmer!
Even if your swim buddy never gets in the water, it’s enough to just have them sit by the pool to look out for you!
And if you ever think to yourself, “Oh, it’s no big deal. I’ll just go for a little dip..” Please remember that this is exactly what I had told myself the night that I almost drowned.
Please feel free to share my story with anyone you care about. Whether you forward our newsletter or read it out loud to your kids (Yes, you can tell them Stephanie really did that!). Sharing a story is one of the best ways to learn something without having to go through it yourself!
Are there other water safety “golden rules” that you or your family struggle with? Maybe always wearing a life jacket on the boat? Having your children remember to close the gate to the pool when they leave?
I’d love to hear about it!
Please comment below…