Hollywood feature films have ingrained into society the misconception that, once near-drowning victims are rescued and administered CPR by a lifeguard, they will simply walk away unscathed.
As our drowning accident attorneys discuss in this article, the true reality and the long-lasting impact in a near-drowning victim is much more sobering.
It should go without saying that the sooner someone who is drowning is rescued and treated, the less physiological damage will be done to major body systems. And while some near-drowning victims do make full recoveries, these represent only a fortunate subset of the total victim population. The number of victims who don't have any long-term repercussions are indeed a minority.
In many instances, the same circumstances which permitted the drowning to occur are the same ones that suggest that the time until the rescue was prolonged. This is to say, if someone is rescued quickly enough so that they do not suffer any injury, it is probable that other precautions were being taken to prevent drowning in the first place.
The short and long-term health effects after a near-drowning occurs are usually a result of asphyxiation. Asphyxiation is when bodily tissues (brain, heart, lungs, & more) stop receiving oxygen-rich blood. When the oxygen stops flowing, biological systems start shutting down and cells begin to die.
For some tissues, going an extended period of time without oxygen (hypoxia) is not a huge concern as long as the oxygen flow eventually returns. This is because, even though cells may die, new ones will be created by the body to replace them.
And yet, not all cells in the body possess this capability, or at least not to this extent. Most notably, the neurons that make up our brain matter fall in this ill-fated category. Brain tissue has some minimal regenerative capabilities but, when an injury occurs and parts of the brain perish, it is very unlikely that the biological structure will be completely rebuilt. As a result, the greatest manifestations of near-drowning injuries are often rooted in brain damage and categorized as hypoxic brain injuries.
When parts of the brain become permanently injured as a result of prolonged oxygen deprivation, there are a number of motor and cognitive functions that may deteriorate or be completely lost.
Different segments of the brain are responsible for different functions, and since a near-drowning may affect one region first in one victim and another brain region in another victim, the resulting brain damage and loss of function can differ from person to person. Nevertheless, there are some common effects seen in most persons affected by a hypoxic brain injury.
For instance, many individuals experience cognitive disorders such as difficulty learning, poor memory, decreased problem-solving, and limited perception following a brain injury. On the other hand, injuries to the motor functions of the brain can show up as decreased coordination, muscle weakness, spasms or twitches, and partial or complete loss of mobility.
Understanding how grave hypoxia is, it's not difficult to understand how critical it is to get oxygenated blood flow in an unconscious person. This is exactly the purpose of CPR, often referred to as rescue breathing.
Chest compressions are largely considered the most important step seeing as how they artificially produce blood flow, preventing oxygen deprivation to some extent. Mouth-to-mouth breathing is also important, but past studies have questioned how much air actually gets absorbed into the blood with this procedure.
Nevertheless, even if a very experienced medical professional is performing CPR on the victim of a near-drowning incident, immediate treatment at a medical care facility is paramount. As a general rule, one can categorize all near-drownings as medical emergencies. There are numerous health complications that can arise after a victim regains consciousness; monitoring for these can go a long way in preventing permanent damage down the line.
In the above section, we discussed some of the long-term physical injuries that can come with a near-drowning. However, there are also some psychological effects caused by the same circumstances which are important to note.
Whichever way you put it, a near-drowning is a traumatic experience. How much trauma is felt by the victim varies from person to person and may also depend on the nature of the incident. Additionally, the extent of the physical injuries resulting from the incident can also heighten the emotional trauma.
As with any traumatic experience, it is possible for the victim to begin to suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, otherwise known as PTSD. While it is most often associated with soldiers who return from the battlefield, PTSD can occur to any individual who went through a very stressful situation.
PTSD can manifest in near-drowning victims as an irrational fear of bodies of water. One can understand why someone would develop a fear of water after almost drowning, but extreme cases of PTSD can cause victims to fear shallow bodies of water where it would be impossible for anyone to drown (such as a bath or shower). Moreover, individuals suffering from such PTSD may also become predisposed against anything related to water or aquatic activities.
Whether the near-drowning occurred when the victim was a child or an adult can also play a part in the level of anxiety experienced by the victim. Trauma can be much more permanent or difficult to overcome if the traumatic incident occurred when the victim was a young child. This is believed to be related to the stage of development in which the brain was when the event took place.
Yet another symptom of PTSD is known as flashbacks. A small, everyday occurrence can trigger memories from the incident in the victim's brain. Essentially, the person will 'relive' the near-drowning quite vividly, sometimes even having visual and/or auditory immersions.
The negative consequences of near-drownings in swimming pools or elsewhere are evident and undeniable. Unfortunately, they are also far too widespread to discuss entirely on this page. Even with professional medical and psychological treatment, victims are often unable to make a full recovery; they cease to be their normal selves.
But victims and their families don't have to face this battle alone. There are powerful legal avenues for ensuring that those who behaved recklessly are held liable.
The civil justice system was put in place to help victims of wrongdoings be made whole again, and this is no different when speaking of a near-drowning. Such legal action
Contact us today to take the first step toward justice. Get the answers you need in a free legal consultation with our experienced attorneys.