Judah Brown Project info@judahbrownproject.org

Drowning: The Silent Killer

By: Ethan Armstrong

Head shot of Ethan Armstrong
Ethan riding in car next to smiling Judah, moments before the drowning.
Ethan with Judah moments before the accident

Imagine this- You are at a friend’s pool and your children are with you. You are talking to your friend, as your children are happily splashing around in the background. As per your parenting instincts, you turn to count your children and make sure all of them are okay. “One, two…” one is missing! 

A state of panic sets in and you hear someone yelling, “Has anyone seen my child?” You don’t realize it’s you screaming, yet you hear it coming from your lips. 

Later, you are not sure how much later, an ambulance arrives and takes your child to the hospital, where they eventually pass away in your arms. 

This is what happened to us, the family of Judah Levi Brown. Judah was a three-year-old boy from Houston, Texas. His family learned in the most horrific way possible that day, the day of his accident, that drowning is quick, and silent, and can happen to anyone.

They learned what you need to know, before it happens to someone you love.

The act of drowning can actually be broken up into five stages and it’s nothing like you’d see in movies. The splashing around and screaming and all the time it takes for anything bad to happen is pure myth, and a dangerous one at that. 

So, what does drowning REALLY look like? What are these five stages? Well, let’s take a look.

Stage 1- Surprise:
    The first stage is the most terrifying for the victim. The victim realizes that they are in danger and they immediately try to save themselves. To do this, they attempt to stay above the water by putting themselves into a near-vertical position, with barely any leg movement, if any at all. 

While the legs are still, the arms go with the reverse approach and begin to make random flipping and grasping motions right near but not often above the surface of the water. The other thing a victim does during this phase is tilt their head up to try to breathe. With all of this going on, they will not be able to cry out; the victims are trying to breathe, so they don’t have the focus or energy to speak.

Stage 2- Involuntary breath holding:
When the victim finally submerges under the water line, their body will force them to hold their breath. This is done involuntarily and is the body’s way of attempting self-preservation. This happens when water has entered the mouth and it will make the person stop breathing. They may continue to struggle, but they will eventually lose consciousness.

 Stage 3- Unconsciousness:
Because of the lack of oxygen, the victim’s body shuts down, kind of like a phone without charge. Water enters the lungs. Breathing stops and lack of oxygen  forces the person into respiratory arrest. 

There is no movement from the person at all at this point. The victim begins to fall to the floor and will do so at a speed determined by their weight, body mass, and a few other factors. 

Stage 4- Hypoxic Convulsion:
The victim may look as if they are having a convulsion at this stage. This can be attributed to the lack of oxygen in the person’s body. They will turn blue and the body will stiffen. The body may jerk violently and the victim may also start salivating.

Stage 5- Death:
The final stage is death. When breathing and blood flow stops, and the brain dies, the person is considered clinically dead. This means the person went into cardiac arrest, stopping the blood flow all throughout the body and they were without oxygen for so long that their brain suffered global injury that could not be recovered from.

All five of these stages sound like they might take a few hours to go through, right? Well, it can actually all happen in 4-6 minutes, on average and if uninterrupted by immediate medical intervention. That is why drowning is so dangerous- it stops the body from being able to function, and it happens in a way that is silent and fast. 

According to Christi Brown, the mother of Judah and co-leader of Judah Brown Project, “As a mother, I was not told that drowning could happen in 30 seconds…or that it is silent, until my son was in the hospital on life support and it was too late for him.”

Ethan holding Judah in ICU
Ethan holding Judah in the PICU

Not only is drowning more common and deadly than people realize (It’s the number one accidental killer of our young children), it is also not commonly known how quickly and silently it can happen
Please take heed of the struggles faced by Judah’s family, MY family, and don’t let them happen to you; don’t let them drown!

Ethan Armstrong Head Shot

Ethan Armstrong

Ethan Armstrong is Judah’s brother and is a fierce advocate for water safety. He is a Junior in High School with aspirations to join the medical field.