A young man of 21 years has died drowning in the Grand Canal in front of the station of Venice. Nobody understood that he was dying, and help arrived too late.
“He refused the lifebuoy” the local papers have repeated endlessly, and hence its seen as a suicide.
I have seen a man drown two metres from me in a pool.
Fortunately he was saved by somebody brighter than I, and he left the pool alive, if shaken.
I was hospitalised here in Venice, for rehabilitation after a stroke, and I was in the pool for exercises.
Besides me in the deeper part of the pool was a elderly man, an immigrant like myself, I believe. While I was concentrating on my exercises, I perceived from the corner of the eye that he was totally immobile in the water. Turning I see that he’s passive in the water, head down, arms stretched out on the sides, floating totally immobile.
Fragments of various thoughts swirled around my brain, but before I was able to put two and two together, the therapist came running, jumped in the pool and pulled the man’s head out of the water.
All this happened in a few seconds, in perfect silence. Nobody said anything, and I don’t believe the others in the pool noticed anything before the therapist jumped in, dressed and all.
Only then did I understand what was happening, and what could have been the consequences.
I wouldn’t have saved that man in time. It still hurts thinking about it.
It wasn’t out of malice. On the contrary, I kind of liked the man. I wouldn’t have saved him because of mental slowness, and a lack of preparation. When the therapist intervened, I still hadn’t understood the gravity of the situation. I was in a kind of confused state of mind, that yes, something wasn’t right, but I couldn’t quite get my head around what, and not understanding, I didn’t act. Thoughts of “drowning” and “death” still hadn’t crossed my mind. I only understood afterwards, when the therapist was already in the pool.
How long would the poor man have had to wait for me to save him? I hope not for long, but honestly I don’t know. Maybe he would have drowned there besides me.
Nobody else in the pool had noticed anything.
If it hadn’t been for a bright and alert therapist, he could have died there in the hospital pool. Simply by extended an arm I could have touched him. I didn’t. I didn’t because I didn’t understand.
Drowning is not a violent, dramatic and noisy event.
One drowns in silence, immobile, sometimes metres from who could save you.
Please read: “Drowning doesn’t look like drowning” by Mario Vittone. Maybe one day you can save a life.