‘I was standing 3 feet away from my son, close enough to him to ‘hear’ any struggling. Whatever you’ve seen on TV, just forget. Drowning is silent.’: Bereaved mother shares water safety PSA, ‘I can only hope his story will save others’

“Next week will be 3 years since we held him. So, allow me a few minutes of your time to talk about water safety. Nothing angers me more than these generic messages people send out to parents with the same old water safety tips. As if we don’t already care enough to watch our kids in water or get them swim lessons. Water safety is not that simple. So, this won’t be one of those messages. This one is real, and it is raw.

I checked all the boxes a good mom would check before going to the pool:

1) Swim lessons since he was a baby.

2) He knew how to swim.

3) I was CPR certified.

4) Taught my kids to respect the water.

5) Kept my eyes and ears on the pool.

But on June 16, 2016 none of that mattered. Pools are not toys. They are holes in the ground filled with water. Beaches are not parks. They are the mouth of the ocean. We have to treat these bodies of water with the fear they demand. Water doesn’t care. It doesn’t have feelings. Water doesn’t signal to you when something is wrong, and your kids can’t either.

Here is my PSA.


There’s no splashing, no yelling for help. Nothing about drowning will catch your attention until it’s too late. Drowning happens under water. You can’t yell for help under water and you can’t splash below the surface. Whatever you’ve seen on TV, just forget. It doesn’t happen that way. We have been conditioned to look for certain distress signals that just won’t happen.

Weston’s Story:

I was standing 3 feet away from my son. He was on the step and I was standing next to him while I was telling the other kids to be safe in the water. How ironic is that? In my head, I was close enough to him to ‘hear’ any struggling. I was close enough to feel water splash on me if he were to struggle and splash. But none of that happened because drowning is silent. It only took less than a minute. In less than a minute, he quietly slipped under and his lungs filled up. I did CPR and he threw up the water. I was holding my sweet boy, telling him everything was okay while he clung to my chest and cried. He was AWAKE and ALERT when EMS arrived. Our ambulance ride was ‘precautionary.’ They sedated and intubated him ‘as a precaution,’ but he never woke up. We waited for three days for him to wake up, praying for a miracle. I was prepared to wait for the rest of my life. But he had lost all brain function. He would never wake up. Every mom’s worst nightmare was now my reality.

Three years later and I don’t have all the answers for you. I thought I did everything right that day. I don’t know that there is any one way to prevent it. Lately good parents are losing their kids to drowning every day in our city and it breaks my heart all over again every single time I hear about another victim.

So, I leave you with another list of boxes to check:

  • Drowning is silent. Don’t wait for the splashing.
  • It CAN happen to you. It happened to me.
  • Treat water with fear and respect, not as a toy or park.
  • It doesn’t matter if they can swim. It can happen to anyone. It happened to Weston.
  • SURVIVAL SWIM LESSONS! This is different than learning to swim. This is teaching our kids as young as babies how to save themselves in an emergency water situation.
  • Doing all of the above still isn’t enough. Never get comfortable. Never believe you’ve covered all your bases. Always look for more ways to stay vigilant.

Please let Weston be your inspiration this summer. Let Weston’s story rattle you to your core so you don’t wind up with your own story. Don’t ever forget him. Don’t ever forget what happened to him. Let his story save your kids’ lives. I don’t want any pity; I don’t want you to feel sorry for me. I just want you to promise me that next time you take your kids near water, you’ll remember Weston. Remember him and let his story change how you feel about water. I will never get to hold my son like this again. It’s a pain I can never explain. I can only hope and pray that his story will save others.”

Kailey Holian

This story was written by Kailey Holian. The article originally appeared hereDo you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

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