It can happen in just seconds. And far too often, it does. Drowning is the number one cause of injury-related death for kids ages one to four.
Anna Slayton’s youngest son was just two when it happened to him.
“That very morning, I was with my kids before I went to work. I made them peanut butter waffles. They hung out with their dad for New Year’s Day,” said Slayton. “I left for work at 11 o’clock. By three in the afternoon, I’m looking at my child on life support.”
It was the first day of 2017.
Slayton said 2-year-old Gavin and his 4-year-old brother were playing by themselves in a backyard with an unfenced pool.
Doctors would later tell her, Gavin was likely in the water at least 10 minutes before they found him.
At the time, swimming lessons were recommended for children starting at age three. Gavin was just a few months away.
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“We were always in the pool. If we were swimming and it was swimming season, we were in the water with them with safety devices and things like that. This was just an accident,” said Slayton.
According to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, 37 children have died in water around the state since January.
Children’s Health said it’s seen 50 drowning incidents this year, up 66% since 2020.
Cook Children’s has seen 35 this year, 22 of which happened last month making it the worst June on record since 2016.
This week, the hospital released new PSAs, encouraging parents to always have a fully attentive adult designated to watch children in water who remains within arm’s reach.
“They don’t talk, they don’t drink, they don’t look at their phones. You have to have that person in charge of watching. That is your job for 10-15 minutes, then you pass it off,” said Cook Children’s trauma injury prevention coordinator Sharon Evans.
Other highlights include creating barriers to the pool like a four-sided fence and making sure everyone wears life jackets when boating or at the lake.
Today as an advocate, they are points Slayton continues to share, along with CPR training, to help others understand just how preventable her heartbreak could have been.
“I think had a fence been around that swimming pool, then my son would still be here. But it wasn’t, so I just want my story to help people understand the impact this can have on your life,” said Slayton.
In 2015 after a record number of drownings, Cook Children’s launched Lifeguard Your Child to help caretakers keep kids safe around water.