Young drowning survivor highlights need for pool safety during school holidays

Wikus Diedericks, a young drowning victim, who now lives a normal life thanks to the quick action of his parents and crisis response company, CrisisOnCall. Source: supplied

‘We are fighting hard to resuscitate your son,” is not something that any parent ever wants to hear. These were the chilling words that City of Tshwane residents, Theresa and Hennie Diedericks were faced with four years ago when their son, Wikus who was only ten and a half months at the time, had fallen into their swimming pool and had been submerged for seven minutes.

Thanks to the quick response of Theresa Diedericks, who had completed a basic CPR course and the support from CrisisOnCall, the Diedericks family today celebrate their son’s fifth birthday.

Wikus has developed into a healthy toddler with no detrimental health issues as a result from his near drowning.

With spring and the school holidays upon us, there is an elevated level of excitement floating in the air. With warmer weather and more time to play outdoors, our children will be drawn to the pool more this time of year. As we go into summer, it is an important time to reinforce pool safety measures to prevent injuries and drowning incidents.

Crisis response company, CrisisOnCall highlights that drowning incidents are one of their most frequent emergency call outs, which can be prevented by implementing consistent rules around the pool and by having protective covers and fences.

“A pool incident can happen so quickly without any sound, which is often the cause for these incidents to go unnoticed until it is too late,” says Ruan Vermaak, communication manager at CrisisOnCall.

“One of the most important measures you can take, is to have a crisis response company or a call center close at hand to speed dial as soon as an incident around the pool occurs. A crisis response company, like ourselves, will immediately dispatch the necessary emergency services to address the incident.”

“Even though we had thought we had safeguarded the swimming pool area, Wikus managed to kick the door open with his walking ring and fell into the pool,” shares Theresa.

“We let CrisisOnCall know what had happened and that we were doing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) ourselves. They were immediate in notifying emergency services and Montana Hospital to ensure that the facility was ready to take Wikus. Employees from CrisisOnCall were in the area and came to the hospital to ensure that the necessary treatment was available for him.

It was late afternoon, and CrisisOnCall arranged for the helicopter transferal to take him to Garden City Hospital in Johannesburg to see a drowning specialist. Wikus was immediately put into an induced coma to help him recover. After two weeks of close monitoring in intensive care, the doctors indicated that he was ready to be discharged and that we would make a full recovery. We are so grateful for all the emergency response crew that saw Wikus through to receive all the necessary treatment and care,” adds Theresa.

Safety tips around the pool for the little ones

three boy s jumping into the water
Photo by MarcTutorials on

“Having basic first-aid training and a crisis response call centre can mean the difference between a life saved and a fatality. Theresa had done a CPR course a month before his birth and they had become CrisisOnCall members a few months before the incident,” says Vermaak.

Along with first-aid training, CrisisOnCall recommends that every household with a pool should implement the following measures:

1.      Restrict children from running around the pool

2.      Have clear rules and instructions that are reinforced regularly.

3.      Don’t dive in shallow water.

4.      Don’t play around drains and on top of covers.

5.      Never let children swim alone. They should always be accompanied by adult supervision. Have a designated person to watch the pool, if everyone is watching you tend to think someone will be watching.

6.      Keep the gate closed and locked near the swimming pool. Check locks and auto-shutting features on a regular basis.

7.      Become a member of a crisis response company that uses an identification band that contains personal information. This allows for a streamlined admission when an incident occurs. Time saves lives.

8.      Invest in a basic first-aid course that includes CPR.

9.      Have emergency numbers stuck up and visible around the household so that anyone can speed dial when something occurs.

10.   Enrol your kids in a swimming class that instils a good level of awareness on pool safety from a young age. Don’t let the kids use floating devices that is attached to their body, it gives them a false sense that they are able to swim. Rather use kick boards and pool noodles.

11.   When on vacation, familiarize yourself with how far the pool is from where you are staying. Show the pool to the children, let them take a note of where the shallow waters and the steps are. Also take note how far the nearest hospital is from your vacation home.

12.   Don’t leave toys in the swimming pool.

13.   Have layers of protection. For example: take kids for swimming lessons, have a gated swimming pool as well as a net. One layer might fail, the chance of all layers failing is less likely.

14.   Swim at beaches where lifeguards are on duty and keep to the specifically demarcated areas designated for safe swimming. For your own safety swim in the areas closest to the lifeguards.

15.   Parents and any adult need to set the example around a swimming pool. Avoid drinking and swimming intoxicated. Good habits within a pool area is essential.

Drowning is unfortunately a silent occurrence and that also tend to happen when children are not supposed to swimming at all. It is also important to consider that drowning may also occur in pond features and other water bodies that are not recreational.

“We have implemented measures that can help you during a crisis at home. Our armband can speak on your behalf when it matters most. If you need to do CPR immediately on-site, one of our call centre consultants can talk you through the process,” says Vermaak. “Our large network of emergency response service providers is a crucial resource; when an incident occurs, it helps to know where the closest ambulance is. This will potentially save a life,” adds Vermaak.

To increase your preparation in the event of an emergency, contact CrisisOnCall on 0861 57 47 47. CrisisOnCall will be your voice in times of need, especially when a home emergency occurs.

To find out more about CrisisOnCall and their services, visit their website and follow them on social media for more important health, safety and medical advice, Facebook and Instagram.

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