Shallow Water Blackout: One Man’s Second Chance At LIfe

If you are not familiar with Shallow Water Blackout (SWB), it is essentially when a person “faints” while doing hypoxic swim training, free diving or playing breath holding games in the water. Until recently, SWB has been a little known phenomenon, especially in competitive swimming. The most dangerous risks for SWB are repetitive prolonged breath-holding laps with little rest between bouts and especially if the swimmer hyperventilates prior to each bout.

At Vasa, Inc., we have been deeply involved in competitive swimming for over 25 years, yet we never knew about SWB until August of 2014. We are committed to building awareness of SWB prevention through safe training guidelines for swimmers, swim coaches, and lifeguards across the globe. Recently, we received an email from a gentlemen who wanted to share his powerful story about his near-death brush with Shallow Water Blackout and his second chance at life. Below, is the email from life-long swimmer & athlete, William Aherne.

July 23, 2015

Good Afternoon,

I thought I’d take a moment to share my story, having just come across your website. I am 48 years old and live in Annapolis, MD. I am fit, have been swimming since I was 1 year old, former Duke lacrosse player, etc. Last Thursday I played a game with my daughters (14, 13, 11 & 9, all water polo players and competitive swimmers) we often play (usually by ourselves with no one around)… how many lengths can we do in the neighbor’s 40′ long pool. I had just come back from a run. My record (to that point) was 8 lengths. I did what I have always done; hyperventilate then go. My next memory after turning for my 6th length was seeing the ceiling of an ambulance. All the stars lined up in my favor that day. The neighbor (60 years old) and his son were home and by the pool. My 11 year old and 9 year old daughters are very strong swimmers and were able to pull their 200 lb. father up from the bottom. The neighbor and his son both know CPR. I had no pulse and wasn’t breathing. They revived me in a couple of minutes and I walked out of the ICU the next night.

The trauma is not mine but that 3 of my 4 daughters, my wife and my neighbors had to see me puffy faced and purple and essentially dead. We are all in counseling now.

If you ever need anyone to speak about the dangers of this all too unknown risk I am at your disposal. If I was saved to help even just one person avoid a needless death I would consider myself more lucky than I am that I am here typing this to you.

Will Aherne

This story is incredibly moving. We want to thank Will for taking the time to share it with us. While Will got a second chance at life, others have not been as fortunate. Shallow Water Blackout is a serious issue. Through these powerful stories, we want to educate and advocate for safe swimming to prevent injury & deaths from occurring. Please take a few minutes to learn more on how to prevent SWB by watching this powerful video with Olympic Swim Coach Bob Bowman & Olympic swimming legend, Michael Phelps.

Other learning resources about SWB:

* Shallow Water Blackout Prevention – Awareness. Education. Prevention.

* Vermont Dedicates The Month of June To Shallow Water Blackout Awareness

* Shallow Water Blackout Prevention website.

Always swim safe & swim smart. Please share this information – it could save a life. Thank you!


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