This was one of the most terrifying things I have ever seen.
My family was enjoying another afternoon of pool time at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells. We are in Palm Springs with two other families, and most of the kids in our group were in the water splashing around with a couple of the dads. My daughter and I were lounging on deck chairs and chatting, kind of watching the action in the pool but not really paying much attention.
There was another group of families settled in on the deck chairs in front of us, right on the edge of the pool. They seemed to be having a good time. It looked like they had been at the pool for awhile. One of the moms was standing next to the group and talking to a couple of the other adults, when all of a sudden she gasped.
“Where is Michael?”
Everyone stopped talking. “Michael?” she called. “Michael?!?” All of the adults in the group stood up and began looking for Michael. The mom and the dad ran to the pool, and instantly the dad jumped in, dove down, and came back up with his son in his arms.
The weirdest thing was that no one else in or around the pool saw this happen. My daughter and I were horrified, and leapt up to see if we could help, but all of the other people around us didn’t bat an eyelash because they didn’t notice what was going on. Meanwhile, the dad kind of turned Michael upside down, and a bunch of water came rushing out of him. Michael must have been 18 months or so, a very small kid. He coughed and vomited more water. Then he cried, kind of weakly.
His mom snatched him up and held him. “Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god!” she repeated. She was clearly in shock. “I just turned my back for a minute and he wasn’t wearing his floaties and oh my god I can’t believe this happened oh my god oh my god!”
Meanwhile, one of the pool servers had seen what was going on and radioed for help. Another server and a manager rushed over. The manager was fantastic. She was very calm and efficient. She explained that she was going to call the paramedics and suggested that the family head up to their room for more privacy. Within a minute or so, the group had gathered all of their belongings and left the pool.
My daughter and I just held hands speechlessly. Start to finish, the entire incident had transpired in the space of perhaps five minutes. Maybe less.
The thing that sticks with me is how quietly Michael slipped into the water. He just went under; no one heard him. Thank god his parents noticed in time. Thank god, thank god. My heart just clenches when I think how things would have been different if even another thirty seconds had passed.
Another thing that I can’t stop thinking about is how no one noticed that this was happening. NONE of the dozen people in the water noticed, and of the twenty-odd people surrounding the pool, only my daughter and I heard and saw this terrible event unfold. I think it’s because people around a pool are used to screaming and commotion: how many times have you heard a kid scream or a mom yell a kid’s name? How common is it for people poolside to get a little rowdy and loud? If someone screams “oh my god,” most of the time it’s a non-event. We just ignore it; it’s part of the background noise at a pool.
I’m thinking about Michael and his family today. I hope they are all okay. And for all of us: as we head into the summer and start spending more time by the pool, let’s look out for each other.
*I’ve changed Michael’s name, by the way. His real name is different.