Let me tell you David’s story. It happened a long time ago. Close on 20 years ago I believe.

It was one balmy Bali evening and my pager buzzed to say that I was needed to evacuate a 12-year-old boy to Singapore following a near drowning incident in the hotel pool. Remember I am talking 20 years ago, facilities here on the Island were very basic, so the risk of flying this boy was actually less that leaving him here on the Island.


I met David, his family and the doctor at the  airport. David was  apparently a junior Olympian on his way to compete in a swimming event in Hong Kong. How the heck did a boy that was almost half fish drown in a swimming pool?

According to David’s father, he had been swimming with friends when one of the boys noticed that David had been under for longer than he should be. They spotted David motionless at the bottom of the pool.

When they tried to bring David up, it quickly became apparent that he had become firmly stuck to the bottom of the pool over the filter hatch. David’s chest was flat, & square and a perfect fit over the filter. Once his chest had covered the grid the suction became stronger & stronger making it impossible to move.

It took 8 people to pull him off the grid. David was  successfully resuscitated by his father, and even though he seemed fine, and was actually sitting up talking and eating chips when I met him, the decision was made to fly him to Singapore ASAP for continuous close observation….why?


What Is ‘Dry Drowning’?

You may have heard of the terms “dry drowning” and “secondary drowning.” Those aren’t actually medical terms. But they do point to rare complications that you should know about and that are more common in children.

With so-called dry drowning, water never reaches the lungs. Instead, breathing in water causes your child’s vocal cords to spasm and close up. That shuts off his airways, making it hard to breathe. You would start to notice those signs right away — it wouldn’t happen out of the blue days later.

Secondary drowning is another term people use to describe another drowning complication. It happens if water gets into the lungs. There, it can irritate the lungs’ lining and fluid can build up, causing a condition called pulmonary edema. You’d likely notice your child having trouble breathing right away, and it might get worse over the next 24 hours.

Both events are very rare. They make up only 1%-2% of all downings.



Drowning complications can include:

  • Coughing
  • Chest pain
  • Trouble breathing
  • Feeling extremely tired

Your child may also have changes in behavior such as such as irritability or a drop in energy levels, which could mean the brain isn’t getting enough oxygen.


What to Do

If your child has any breathing problems after getting out of the water, get medical help. Although in most cases the symptoms will go away on its own, it’s important to get the child checked out.

Most likely the victim will be put under observation, and if necessary a chest x-ray may be performed, and in severe cases a breathing tube may be needed with medication to clear the fluid from the lungs.



The most important thing you can do is help prevent drowning in the first place. Children need constant supervision, no matter how water-savvy they are.

So there are several lessons to be learned here:

  • Never assume that strong swimmers will not get into trouble in water.
  • Look out for your friends (a buddy system around pools & ocean)
  • Learn first aid – Bali First Responder has courses for all levels. Go to http://www.balifirstresponder.com/
  • Check that your pool filter grid is not accessible to swimmers
  • Take near-drowning victims for observation at a clinic or hospital even if they seem fine.
  • Make sure you have a good health insurance.

Happy Holidays ☺


Kim Patra is a qualified Midwife  &  Nurse Practioner who has been living and working in  Bali for over 30 years. She now runs her own Private Practice  & Mothers & Babies center at her Community Health Care office in  Sanur.

Kim is happy to discuss any health concerns that you have and may be contacted via email at balikim2000@gmail.com, or office phone 085105-775666 or https://www.facebook.com/CHC  Bali


Copyright © 2017 Kim Patra

You can read all past articles of

Paradise…in Sickness & in Health at www.BaliAdvertiser.biz