Drowning doesn’t look like drowning

Mario Vittone, a trained rescue swimmer and former member of the Coast Guard, has written extensively on drowning. I came across his article on Slate recently and was grateful for his insight when I read it. Here are 3 things I took away –

  1. We are conditioned by television to recognize drowning by a mix of waving, splashing, and screaming. In real life, drowning is almost deceptively quiet. It is the second highest cause of accidental death in kids below age 15. And, at least in 10% of the drownings, the adults will have no idea it is happening.
  2. When folks drown, they can’t call out for help or wave. Their bodies look vertical and their mouths appear to sink and reappear above the surface of the water. It doesn’t mean a person who is splashing and yelling in the water isn’t drowning. They are in aquatic distress but still have the power to do something about it – unlike in the case of drowning.
  3. And, in his words – “So if a crew member falls overboard and everything looks OK—don’t be too sure. Sometimes the most common indication that someone is drowning is that they don’t look like they’re drowning. They may just look like they are treading water and looking up at the deck. One way to be sure? Ask them, “Are you all right?” If they can answer at all—they probably are. If they return a blank stare, you may have less than 30 seconds to get to them. And parents—children playing in the water make noise. When they get quiet, you get to them and find out why.”

We all spend time near the water. If you can, learn how to swim. And, once you do, be observant and safe.

Thanks, Mario, for sharing.

Germ theory and gender equality

In “How We Got To Now,” Steven Johnson makes an interesting connection between germ theory and gender equality. In the epidemic ridden early 1800s, few made the connection between bad water and disease.

Many advances helped our ancestors make that connection. And, prime among them was germ theory. Thanks to scientists like Ignaz Semmelwies, Robert Koch and Louis Pasteur, we connected germs with disease. Once we did that, the next step was to rid water of germs. And, in one of the riskiest experiments in history, John Leal tested the effects of adding small amounts of Chlorine on the New Jersey water supply without asking anyone for permission. John Leal was a Health Officer at the time. As a physician trained in bacteriology, he was sure a small amount of Chlorine would help eliminate germs. But, it was still a huge risk. And, it paid off.

In one of the most wonderful displays of magnanimity, Leal didn’t patent his idea or attempt to commercialize it in anyway. It was free to spread around the world and it ended up saving millions of lives over time.

A side effect of these steps forward was the creation of swimming pools. And, with the creation of swimming pools came bathing suits. This, in turn, led to a reinvention of attitudes toward the female body. There were multiple other factors that contributed to these change in attitudes – hollywood, mid century feminism, etc. – but few consider the massive effect that clean drinking water had on gender equality.

I’ve been reflecting on this flow of events as it is one I find very powerful. First, I think this is a great illustration of how progress is often so non-linear. It is very hard to make the connection between gender equality and clean drinking water. And, yet, there exists one. It illustrates why progress at a societal level is so hard. After all, there are so many hidden variables that we don’t really understand or control. And, suggesting that we might solve tough societal problems by pulling one or two big levers is naive.

Second, when we look back at human history, we celebrate the likes of the Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein. As we should. But, we should also make space to celebrate the many human beings who, for various reasons, didn’t become immortalized despite their incredible work. Leal, Semmelweiss, Koch, Pasteur and co., combined probably saved more lives than any other human team. Here’s to their incredible work.

We really do walk on the shoulders of giants.

Play for Hope – $10 to make a difference

We, at Help2Grow.org, are proud to support Pudiyador – a charity that has been changing lives by educating the underprivileged community in Chennai, India, for the past 10 years.

Pudiyador’s leadership team want to take 45 of their kids to India’s first 5 day Ultimate frisbee camp for the underprivileged and they need help. Most of these kids have never been outside their hometown before.

We have a campaign on Bitgiving.com –  a crowdfunding website for social initiatives – to help them raise their money. Our target is INR 40,000 and have started out with a target of INR 20,000 (roughly USD 341). So, that means $10 from you could go a long way to help these kids. Please watch the 2 minute video below and the note from Liz and join us by contributing here. And, if a contribution is not possible, we’d appreciate it if you shared the love..

The campaign is on http://bitgi.co/playforhope

Thank you for your attention and hope you have a great weekend.

PS: Please let me know if you have any trouble making the final payment and please don’t worry about any messages that say your card won’t be accepted. I am reachable on rohan@rohanrajiv.com/rohan@help2grow.org.


Hello there!

I am Liz, Program Manager for Sports at Pudiyador, a Chennai-based non-profit. We would like to take 45 of our kids to Surat for a one-of-a-kind Ultimate Frisbee camp.

Pudiyador believes in changing lives through education. We provide a safe, interactive, fun, and hands-on learning environment for underprivileged kids. For over 10 years, we’ve been running weekend and after-school programs for over 200 children every year across their centers in Chennai.

I am also an ultimate Frisbee enthusiast and I have been teaching the sport at Pudiyador the past year. We’ve seen how ultimate Frisbee changes the way our kids communicate, work with each other and approach life. We truly believe in the impact that play can have on child growth and development.

And we are keen on taking 45 kids to Surat for the National Youth Ultimate Frisbee camp. Most of them have never travelled outside Chennai before and are very excited.

The Surat Camp will be a first in many ways:
– the first sleep-away Ultimate Frisbee camp ever held in India.
– the first initiative to enable bonding and friendships between underprivileged children from different parts of India.
– the first ever camp of such a scale (160 kids from across India and 30 youth coaches).

At this point, we are short of INR 20,000 to make this trip happen. You can help make this happen! Any additional funds will go towards making the Surat experience extra special for our kids.

Thank you so much!

P.S: We believe that every rupee creates equal impact and hence, all our donations will be treated and rewarded with the same love.