Valley News -

By Alex Groves
Associate Editor 

Public health, safety officials stress water safety during news conference

 

Last updated 7/5/2018 at 5:01pm

Alex Groves

Lake Elsinore Mayor Natasha Johnson speaks during a news conference encouraging water safety, July 2.

With seven child drowning deaths in Riverside County this year so far, health and public safety officials stressed the importance of water safety during a news conference.

The conference, held July 2 at Lake Elsinore's Elm Grove Beach, was organized by the Riverside County Water Safety Coalition and included speeches from public health and safety officials.

Kim Sarutawari, Director of the Riverside County Department of Public Health, began talking about the different children who died by drowning.

They included a 6-year-old boy who drowned after driving a battery-operated car into a pool in Jurupa Valley, A 9-year-old Palm Desert girl who fell into a pool trying to reach a tennis ball and a 2-year-old who fell into a backyard pool in Corona while his family barbecued in the front yard.

"We're here today because of a public health crisis in Riverside County," Saruwatari said. "It has not only taken seven children so far, but it has left many other families dealing with the pain and anguish of a child who has suffered severe brain damage.

"For years we have told the community that child drowning is 100 percent preventable and we've asked parents, guardians and anyone responsible for watching over children to be alert all the time around a body of water."

Dr. Michael Mesisca of the Riverside University Health System Medical Center said that because children have small airways, it doesn't take a large amount of water or a long time for a child to become submerged and lose vital oxygen. A child can drown in something as small as a bucket while a parent washes a car.

"The child falls into the bucket and within a matter of minutes they stop breathing," Mesisca said. "They can't get themselves out of it and they end up either permanently injured or dead as a result."

Water Safety Coalition officials are encouraging people parents, guardians and supervisors of children to keep an eye on them at all times around bodies of water.

Officials are also asking people to take stock of both indoor and outdoor drowning hazards. Indoor hazards include buckets with water in them, unattended or unemptied bathtubs, running and unattended showers, open lids on washing machines and deep bowls for pet water.

Outdoor hazards include uncovered spas or pools; unlatched or broken pool and spa gates; unattended, partially full or full kiddie pools; hoses left running and unattended; birdbaths or fountains; outdoor showers and floating toys not retrieved from pools (the toys can attract children into the water).

After the news conference, visitors could visit booths offering information on such things as where to get free swimming lessons and information on CPR.

Emily Craig of the Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire Department was offering free CPR demonstrations. She noted that CPR is critical after a pediatric drowning because it's important to free up a child's airway and get much needed oxygen to the brain.

Craig said that people should take two fingers and push down fast and hard just under the child's chest while periodically giving "rescue breaths."

For adult near-drowning incidents, people should place the victim on his or her side to help get water out of the airway, then roll the victim on his or her back and proceed with compressions using both hands.

Craig said that for adults, hands-only compressions until paramedics or law enforcement show up is fine. A person does not need to perform rescue breaths on an adult victim.

Craig said that cities often offer CPR lessons as part of partnership with the Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire Department. People can also find classes through the American Heart Association by visiting heart.org/cpr.

Attending the news conference was Toni Rosseau and her 9-year-old daughter Summer. Summer suffered severe brain damage seven years ago after falling into a pool.

Alex Groves

Emily Craig of the Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire Department demonstrates CPR chest compressions on a dummy in Lake Elsinore, July 2.

"She got out while I went to go use the restroom," Rosseau said. "There were doors open. I found her at the bottom of the pool."

Summer went 36 minutes without a heartbeat before she was revived. Though doctors expected that Summer would be blind and wouldn't recognize people, that has not been the case. She has been able to see, recognize and even learn, according to Rosseau.

But Summer will never be able to walk or talk again.

Rosseau said that people often assume that because a person didn't die in a drowning they'll fully recover.

"It doesn't work like that," she said. "It's the brain injury that affects them like this."

For more information on water safety, visit https://rivcowatersafety.net.

Alex Groves can be reached by email at [email protected]

 

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