Family’s loss punctuates risk to toddlers around pools

Venus Labaron’s advice to other parents of toddlers is simple: “Watch them, just watch them.”

Labaron spoke with media today at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt flanked by family, friends and supporters. On Aug. 5, two of Labaron’s triplet children were pulled from a family member’s backyard, aboveground pool. Makayla, Labaron’s only daughter, died, and her son, Markel, remains in critical condition in the Vanderbilt Children’s Pediatric Critical Care Unit (PCCU).

After treating 10 children over the last 18 months for serious pool-related incidents in the unit, PCCU director Neal Patel, M.D., associate professor of Pediatrics at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, told members of the Nashville media today that this tragedy is all too common, and most of the children who come to the unit after near-drowning incidents do not do well.

“Half of the children we have seen have died, and many of the others suffer long-term brain damage,” Patel said. “It’s only a matter of seconds, minutes at the most, before a child who goes under the water suffers death or irreparable harm. The families we see are devastated by how quickly their lives change and how quickly a child can be lost.”

Here are some water safety facts:

* Children ages 4 and under have the highest drowning death rate, usually from pools or bathtubs

* Drowning fatality rates are highest in the Southern United States.

* About 40 percent of drownings happen on Saturdays and Sundays.

* Most children who drown in pools were out of sight for less than five minutes.

* Most drownings in children ages 1 to 4 happen in pools.

* Most drownings in children ages 5 to 14 are in open water sites.

A full two-thirds of all drowning deaths happen in the swim season; almost all of them are preventable.

Other precautions that have been shown to save lives include:

* A phone located at a pool

* Lifeguards

* Rescuing devices (floats or hooks)

* Lockable fences and gates

* Pool alarms that go off when someone hits the water

For More Information

Carole Bartoo

Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital