You can help save children from drowning
with self-rescue swim lessons
We lost our 21-month old son, Luke, to drowning. Like most people, we wanted to be great parents and to keep our children safe. We baby-proofed the house, fenced the yard and pool with self-latching gates, hired private swim instructors, found the best nanny, prayed over them every day, and more. Yet, we lost our baby boy to drowning; our daughter Vivian lost her twin; our lives were changed forever.
Drowning is the single leading cause of death of children ages one to four. Children need LAYERS of protection to prevent drowning such as supervision, locks, fences, alarms, and finally, swim instruction. While there is no way to “drown-proof” a child, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that formal swimming lessons for children ages one to four can reduce the overall risk of childhood drowning by 88%.
Saved by Luke believes that more parents need to know about the self-rescue type of swim lessons. You can help us spread the word and provide funding for more children to receive these potentially life-saving skills.
When we were new parents, we did not know that infants could learn to swim. Around that time, the American Association of Pediatricians (AAP) recommended that children ages four and over take swim lessons. However, children ages one to four have the highest drowning rates. The AAP now recommends swim lessons for all children over age one.
We did give our twins traditional swim lessons. We remember playful swim lessons where Luke and Vivian were taught to submerge their faces into the water to blow bubbles. An apparent goal was to become comfortable with and unafraid of the water. What our twins needed first, however, was to be taught to survive in the event of an accidental fall into the water. We did not know that children as young as six months old can learn to save themselves in the water by rolling over to a floating position where they can rest and breathe.
Drowning is the leading cause of death
Children as young as six months old can learn to save themselves in the water
AAP recommends to start swim lessons at age one
Luke’s twin sister, Vivian started this page to honor Luke by raising awareness of about the importance of self-rescue swim lessons versus traditional swim lessons, to help fund those lessons for children in need, and to fight for more protections for children from drowning.
Barriers around water and good supervision are mandatory to protect children from drowning. As final line of defense, young children must be taught to save themselves in the water. Just like installing carseats and doorknob protectors, all parents should know to equip their child with self-rescue swim skills as soon as possible.
Photo: Luke’s twin sister, Vivian
Luke and Vivian were born on February 5, 2011, in St. Petersburg, Florida. Born over five weeks early, we held little Luke in the NICU for 11 days before bringing him home. Luke grew into an energetic, curious, strong-willed, and affectionate toddler. Generous with his snuggles and kisses, he sometimes plucked flowers around the yard for mom. He loved to laugh, dance, and play with his twin, Vivian.
We (Ian and Robin Leavengood) were two newlywed attorneys enjoying first-time parenthood, and like most, trying to figure out the “right” things to do. Baby Signing Time. Baby Wise. Returning to Work. Vaccine Safety. Solid Food…how much and how soon?!? First-time parents are confronted with many questions, most of which do not possess one definitive, correct answer. There are many options and many opinions. Swim lessons—when to have them and the type of lessons to employ—are two such questions.
Luke loved the water. At a year old, he and Vivian had private swim lessons with an instructor in the backyard pool that, in hindsight, did not teach Luke to swim, but rather acclimated him to pools. Luke got used to the water. Luke played in the water. Luke blew bubbles in the water. And Luke began to go under the water, but despite rounds of private lessons (and many pool days with his parents), Luke never learned to independently float, much less swim.
New parents also typically spend much time (and a small fortune) “baby-proofing” their homes after their babies come home from the hospital. Baby gates. Cabinet locks. Outlet covers. Doorknob protectors. Pool fences. We were no different in our efforts provide a safe environment for our twins. What many young parents do not realize, however, is that it is not only what you do that matters, but it is also what others do (or don’t do) that can make all the difference in the world.
One busy weekday morning while we were at work, Luke, a 21-month old, curious toddler, slipped away from his nanny and quietly managed to escape through our home’s front door. He ventured outside and the door closed behind him. We lived in a waterfront community, and although our yard and pool were fenced, local ordnances known as “grandfather laws” allowed older pools in the neighborhood to be unfenced. On November 8, 2012, sometime around 10:00am, little Luke, a boy who loved life and the water, fell into our neighbor’s pool where, unable to float or swim, he was submerged. Luke went without oxygen for what doctors believe was in excess of 20 minutes. And while the paramedics and the staff at All Children’s Hospital ultimately resuscitated Luke’s little lifeless body, severe damage to his brain and neurological system had been done. With no brain activity and unable to breathe on his own, we made the most painful decision of our lives, that no parent should ever have to make, and removed Luke from life support on November 29, 2012. We held him our arms in that hospital once again, felt his little heart beats fade away, and handed him to a surgeon to become an organ donor.
Luke slipped away from supervision and soundlessly outsmarted our front door, escaping outside in the blink of an eye. We will never know if survival swim lessons would have saved Luke’s life in our neighbor’s pool. Since then, we have watched our other three young children learn to swim through survival swim lessons within a matter of weeks, and we have heard success stories of children trained in survival swim lessons who “rolled to a float” after an accidental fall into the water. We simply believe that survival swim lessons are a good option for parents who want to arm their children with a “last line of defense” in the water.
Saved By Luke Mission
Saved By Luke (SBL) is a Florida Non-Profit created for three primary purposes. Saved By Luke’s goals are to:
Saved By Luke (SBL) is a Florida Non-Profit created for 3 primary purposes. First, SBL desires to raise drowning awareness and the need to educate people regarding “survival swim lessons” for infants. Second, SBL raises money to provide survival swim lesson tuition to those families who cannot afford the lessons themselves. And third, SBL desires to bring about meaningful legislative change regarding swimming pool safety in the State of Florida.
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