It all happened in just moments.
Julia Puranen was enjoying a day in her backyard pool with her children, their friends, and other parents when her son dipped below the surface of the water.
“As I live and breathe there was no screaming, there was no sound, nobody noticed — not those watching, not those swimming,” she said.
A neighbor had come to the backyard gate and Puranen left her nearly three-year-old son to practice his kicking while holding the pool ladder, but he didn’t listen.
“He decided to follow me through the water. I didn’t notice he had left the stairs,” she said.
When Puranen turned around she was horrified by what she saw.
“There was David in the deep-end under the water. It took probably just seconds but it seemed to take a long time to register that he was actually under the water, eyes open, mouth open,” she said.
People sprung into action, calling 911 and trying CPR on Puranen’s son. Eventually he regained consciousness.
“Had I gone into the house, done something else before checking on him or anything like that I’m sure it would have been a full drowning,” she said.
‘This is a life-saving skill’
The ordeal happened in 1987 but it’s something she will never forget. Puranen is sharing her story to warn other parents how quickly things can go wrong in the water, and she’s hoping other parents don’t suffer the same experience.
This summer she’s been opening up her pool to allow neighbourhood kids to learn how to swim. The children receive lessons from certified private swimming instructors.
Candida Sousa-Lopes’ daughter Marlina has been taking lessons in the backyard.
“This is a life-saving skill, and for Mrs. Puranen to open up her swimming pool to kids in the neighbourhood who need to learn how to swim is phenomenal,” she said.
“She’s saving lives is what she’s doing. This is the best thing anyone can do for the neighbourhood.”
Sousa-Lopes said her daughter struggled with group swimming lessons but finding a space for her to learn on her own was a challenge. She was anxious to get her daughter to be more comfortable in the water.
“If her floatie came off, or if she wasn’t wearing a floatie, could she survive in the water alone? What would happen if she wasn’t? Would she sink to the bottom?” she said.
“Sometimes kids think they can swim because they wear a flotation device and you take that away and there is no security and they do sink. Your biggest fear is your child drowning.”
The Lifesaving Society says the most common water-related death is when people are swimming (31 per cent).
The organization has a list of backyard pool safety tips:
- Have a fence around the pool with a locking gate designed so children can’t access it from the outside.
- Ensure you have safety equipment on hand and available at the pool whenever it’s being used.
- Clean up any pool toys in the area that may be a magnet for kids.
- Always have an adult watching children in the pool and don’t have them multitasking or on their phones.
- Parents should be within arm’s reach of a child six-years-old and under in the water.
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