Danger In The Pool

Leaving the pediatric intensive care unit, 12-year-old Emmanuel Guerrero and his parents know how close he came to dying.

"He was unconscious, totally out of it," says his father Emmanuel Guerrero. "Something happened when he was drowning, and he was bleeding."

The family was attending a cousin's birthday party. The pool was filled with children, and the parents were standing just a few feet away. But nobody noticed when Emmanuel got tired.

The last thing he remembers before passing out is taking in a big gulp of water while trying to come up for air.

By the time he was pulled from the pool, he'd stopped breathing.

"I didn't know how long he had been at the bottom of the pool, and to me, I just started doing CPR," says his father.

Emmanuel is one of the lucky kids. Each year 1,200 children under the age of 14 drown, while another 5,000 are hospitalized. Up to 20 percent of those who are hospitalized never fully recover, reports CBS News Correspondent Sandra Hughes.

"The lack of oxygen to the brain causes brain injury so quickly," says Dr. Stephen Johnson.

Johnson has worked in the pediatric ICU on hundreds of drownings, and he's on a crusade to put enough fear in parents to save lives.

"The real problem is that parents may give lip service to the safety precautions that they've made but really it's not happening," says Johnson. "What we're finding is that most kids are drowning because of a lapse of parent's supervision and attention."

Of preschoolers who drown, 70 percent were in the care of their parents when the accident happened.

In California, one of ten states where drowning surpasses all other causes of death for children under 14, a new law mandates homeowners building pools must surround them with a fence.

Other layers of protection include pool covers, and alarms that sound when a child falls into the water. But nothing guarantees safety like a watchful eye.

The Guerrero family learned that the hard way and have taken this near death lesson to heart.

"Lessons first and then swim," says Emmanuel's mother.

"I think if we go into a pool again we will take classes, CPR classes and we will all become lifeguards," says his father.

Emmanuel did take one summer of lessons, but more than half the children who drown every year, have also had swimming lessons.
  • Jaime Holguin

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