It was the silence that made the hairs stand up on Mata Henare’s neck.
She had been tending to her sick one-year-old about 10am after both had a sleepless night when the Moorebank mum realised she could no longer hear her two-year-old son, who she’d left watching cartoons on his iPad.
Instinct sent her looking for him.
Reza had pushed his bike up against the family’s backyard pool fence and climbed over.
“I saw him floating in the pool, he was lifeless. My mum was with me and pulled him out of the pool and I just grabbed him and started CPR. He wasn’t breathing,” she said.
Ms Henare had never learnt CPR but she’d see it on television and started as best she could.
“I just did what I had seen on movies and I did a few pumps before he started breathing but his breathing was really shallow,” the 33-year-old said.
The police arrived first and took over, but her swift action saved her boy’s life.
“They told me I saved my son’s life and I’ve since learnt how to do it properly and told every parent I meet to do it,” she said.
A year on and Reza has no long-term effects from that morning, but many other children suffer severe disabilities after being revived after drowning, a new report released today reveals.
The NSW Study of Drowning and Near-Drowning in Children (0-16), conducted by the Sydney Children’s Hospital Network, investigated young people taken to hospital emergency departments in “drowning-related” incidents — both fatal and non-fatal, where the victim stops breathing after their lungs fill with water — between 2015 and 2018.
MORE FROM JANE HANSEN
It found seven out of 10 children who had a drowning incident were unsupervised by an adult.
As in Reza’s case, knowledge of CPR was highlighted in the study as the difference between life and death.
Dr Donovan Dwyer, Emergency Specialist and Director of Trauma at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick said every parent and carer should learn CPR.
The Sunday Telegraph campaigns for parents to be taught CPR in antenatal classes.
“It is most often a family member who finds the child in a drowning incident. Don’t let your child be a drowning statistic — every parent and carer needs to know the lifesaving skills of C.PR,” Dr Dwyer said.
Drowning remains one of the leading causes of accidental death in children under the age of five year with an average of 10 drowning deaths each year in NSW. There are about 300 non-fatal drownings in children aged 0-5 years in Australia each year.
The study also found 69 per cent of drowning incidents were in children under four with 36 per cent of non-fatal incidents occurring in backyard pools and 23 per cent in baths.
Sue Wicks, Kids Health Department Head at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead and co-author of the study said close and active adult supervision of children was the best preventive measure.
“Children under five years are most at risk and if unsupervised they are at a great risk,” she said.
Like Ms Henare, the study found simple distractions can be deadly.
“Parents said they were more likely to be attending to another child or preparing food and a small number said they were looking at a phone.
“Adults think they are supervising but they misunderstand how quickly and silently a drowning happens. We need to make it clearer to people what supervision actually means. You need to be close, in arms reach and you need to have your attention on the child all the time,” she said.
For the under four age group 37 per cent of drowning incidents occurred while the child was unsupervised and the parent was unaware that the child was in or near water, but in 31 per cent of drowning incidents the parent was aware that the child was in or near water, while a further 12 per cent were supervised from a distance.
Those who survive a drowning incident can suffer a range of effects, from none though to severe brain and other organ damage. A child sustaining neurological deficits from drowning is likely to experience a lifetime of significant impairment, requiring sustained support from those who care for them.
A five-year study conducted by The Children’s Hospital at Westmead investigated the long-term neurocognitive outcomes in children following a non-fatal drowning incident. The children recruited to the study had no apparent neurological problems on discharge and were followed up at three to six months, one year, three years and five years.
The study found that 22 per cent of the patients showed behaviour problems, poor communication, executive function and learning difficulties at some point during their follow-up.
NSW THREE-YEAR STUDY OF DROWNING AND NEAR DROWNING IN CHILDREN
79% were 0-4 years old
36% were found in pools
23% in baths
68% were unsupervised
74% needed CPR
33% in pools because gate was propped open
85% found by family member