For today’s Child Safety Source, we’re interviewing not one but two special guests! In this episode, Life Saver Pool Fence’s Eric Lupton spoke with Annette Courtney and Christi Brown.
Each week, we sit down with talented experts that dedicate their lives to keeping children safe. These two ladies are no exception. Annette Courtney and Christi Brown are representing the Judah Brown Project, a non-profit committed to reducing the number of child drownings each year.
Learn more about Annette Courtney and Christi Brown in this full video interview:
Learning More About the Judah Brown Project
As you heard during the interview, the organization began with the tragic death of Judah Brown. As a way to preserve Judah’s memory, the non-profit provides funding for critical water safety programs. This includes survival swimming instruction, CPR certification, and more. These education initiatives help families of young children to avoid drowning hazards and to lower the risk of tragedies.
Thanks to the generous donations from its supporters, the Judah Brown Project is able to make a difference. As the Project grows, Annette Courtney and Christi Brown’s joint goal is to provide as many low-cost or no-cost classes to their local community as possible.
To learn more, visit the Judah Brown Project official website.
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Below is a direct transcript of the Child Safety Source interview with Annette Courtney and Christi Brown from September 17th, 2018:
Child Safety Source 38 – Annette Courtney and Christi Brown
Eric Lupton: That’s it, we are live on the Internet. How is it going?
Annette Courtney and Christi Brown: Hi, good, how are you?
Eric: I am fantastic. And I like your background, I was just [inaudible 00:00:21]. I was trying to read what it said, but my eyes are… I’m getting old.
Christi: I didn’t even know what it says, we just [inaudible 00:00:27] by the bench.
Annette: We are trying to get good lighting.
Eric: And that’s good call; I should do something like that, I’ve got like a mess on my pool table behind me that’s what I see, that’s fantastic.
Annette: I always… and every time I watch you, I always wonder what is on your pool table.
Eric: I have no idea, I couldn’t tell you. I think right now, it’s like mail and a blanket, like a towel.
Annette: If you ever use it for pool?
Eric: No, no I do not. I sleep on it sometimes because I don’t like going to bed, but that’s about it.
Annette: Sleep on it?
Eric: I can’t even sleep on it. Yeah, that’s the biggest use of the pool table. Yeah. And it holds my mail and apparently, like a blanket and a couple towels right now. So, that’s what’s happening with the pool table.
Annette: That’s great.
Eric: It is. But one day someone will play pool on it, it will be fantastic. It could happen. One day and I got the upside down Christmas tree still back there, which that’s a whole separate issue.
Annette: Yeah, I noticed there was a Christmas tree and I wondered if you just keep it up year round.
Eric: At this point, I think I am. That wasn’t the plan, but it’s there; yes, it’s upside down, it’s being held up by Superman at the bottom. You can’t see from here, but yeah… exactly. So, I was just saying to you guys, this is the first time we’ve had two people on at the same time, which is kind of cool. So, you’re making history. And we find that you have to be very close to each other, which is a new revelation.
Christi: Closer than we’ve ever been.
Eric: So, hopefully you’ve showered.
Annette: Yes [laughing]
Annette: We both have a week, so we shower often.
Eric: Yeah, at least once a week. So, tell me about… either one, whichever guys you want; I’ll just [inaudible 00:02:26] direct questions to both of you and whoever wants to answer we’ll do better. Tell me about [inaudible 00:02:30] project. And I guess that’s [inaudible 00:02:33] what you do.
Annette: Okay. Do you want to start?
Christi: Go ahead.
Annette: Okay. So, in early ‘2016’, during prayer time my boss told me about Judah’s accident. And so, during that time I didn’t know the statistics of drowning. So, God spoke to me and said you need to do something; well with that something, my goal was to get kids three and under, because Judah was three, to teach them how to swim. So, to get an instructor and with the instructor, have a group of children just learn how to swim. So, what I wanted to do, was get the parents involved and by getting the parents involved, I wanted to get them to raise funding. And so, one way I was going to give to the Browns, was to have the parents donate the money to the instructor and the instructor donate the money to the Browns.
Well, during that time, Judah had passed. So, I didn’t know the statistics of drowning. So, what I quickly did was decided that I was going to raise this money and give it to the Brown’s as part of the funeral cost for Judah. And during that time somebody approached me and said, I have a business and I will match dollar for dollar everything that comes in. So, what happened was, we were trying to look for a location for a pool and it’s hard because when you have a pool, you have so many liabilities, so it wasn’t easy just to get the kids there and then have the parents sign waivers and things like that. It sounds nice but on paper it’s much harder.
Eric: Like a lot of things; yeah.
Annette: Yeah. So, during that time Gymboree playing music donated… they actually matched dollar for dollar everything that came in and they donated above that. So, during all of that there was somebody from Singapore, Her name is Michelle and she heard what we wanted to do with the money and she sent funding from Singapore for us to become a [501c3] organization.
Christi: So, in the meantime, I was in the hospital with Judah and this was when we knew that he wasn’t going to make it. And I was crying and upset at his bedside and you know, thinking why wasn’t I told any of the statistics before now? Why wasn’t I told how easy this can happen? And I thought about my pediatrician and I thought about I never heard anything from my pediatrician or from his preschool or anyone who worked with him about you know, how to keep him safe around the water. And I was getting really angry and I’m like, why aren’t pediatricians… why aren’t they giving this information? We give information about car accidents, we give information about poisoning but we don’t give information about water safety.
And so, she had contacted me about this, about the project and I told her about my concerns. And said, you know we need to do something, we need to do, we need to get into these pediatricians offices and we need to get this information in there so that they can give it to their families. And that’s really where the main thrust of the project started, I think.
Eric: And I think you guys might be focusing on what arguably could be considered the most important niche right now in the water safety. You know, I don’t know if you saw the results of Kerri Morrison’s survey; but she did a survey where she asked parents you know, if they’ve been instructed about water safety from their doctor and only like fifteen percent had, it was a really, really, low number. Almost criminally low number and I knew it was low, I didn’t know it was that low and even more surprising you know, the majority of her respondents I believe are in Florida, where water safety is a constant conversation. And if it’s you know fifteen percent here that means it’s you know, even worse in other areas of the country. But you guys are in Texas.
Annette: You know why? The AAP doesn’t recommend swim lessons for under age five?
Eric: Do I know why? So, I think now it’s below age one.
Annette: In your area, it’s in your area, correct?
Eric: I think is nationwide, I could be wrong. But since we’ve been doing this since ‘1987’, it was age five and they used to say it was for ear infections. You know, they were worried about kids getting ear infections. And then later on they said it is because kids couldn’t learn how to swim before age five. And now, their official position is that they recommend… so, some [efficacy] at age one, they don’t recommend it six months. And it literally says in their guide book that you know, infants rolling over and floating makes for a compelling videos on the internet, but there is no statistical data that and it improves any chance of saving a kid, which blows my mind; like they literally referred to the videos on the Internet that we’ve all seen and then like, “but don’t believe those, we have no idea”.
Annette: Even when you watch it first- hand like we have been…
Eric: Yeah, it’s impossible.
Annette: It’s amazing.
Christi: It’s amazing what these kids can do.
Annette: Yeah, at such a young age and how quick they learn it, you know; the roll over, the float, to back. I mean, it’s just unbelievable.
Eric: Yeah, and I mean, the organization of the teachers have thousands of documented cases of people who’ve reached out to them and said, you know, our child fell in the water and roll rolled over and floated and it’s good to go now.
Christi: And that’s kind of our battle, that’s our grassroots, you know. I feel like we need to take it from the grassroots and just go and knock on these pediatricians’ doors and just keep knocking until we get more and more pediatricians and [inaudible 00:09:01] and we’ve got forty…
Christi: Forty- four pediatricians’ offices that carry our pamphlets right now.
Annette: Throughout the US.
Christi: So, we’ve got eighty- five offices, not just pediatricians, but other… we call them points of first contact; people who you know, have access to families with children, with young children. And we have eight-five of those and then forty- four of those are pediatricians.
Eric: I like that you guys have focused on that. I know it’s compelling in the beginning to just want to do everything all at once. And you know, I think the people that do the best are the people that kind of pick a lane and you know, pick something that reaches out to them and focus on it.
Annette: Yeah, because there’s so much in drowning prevention, it’s such a big… there is so many aspects to it, right. So, focusing on thing, sometimes is best and that you know, you just have a goal. And our goal is to save little lives.
Eric: Did you guys, kind of waiver on what you wanted to focus on before you landed on that, or did you know right away?
Annette: Honestly, it was such a God thing. You know, such a God thing that first lead me to raising awareness. And once Christi spoke about pediatricians not knowing the importance of water safety and sharing this information with families, we really just geared in on pediatricians itself.
Christi: Yeah, how can we…? I mean, I kind of knew from the beginning this is what needs to happen, and this is what we need to focus on because you know, the more information is out there… the parents can’t know what to do if people aren’t helping them understand what the risks are and what they can do to make those risks lower. And so, I felt like the best way to do that would be to get into these as a call and point of first contact and get them to talk to these people about this, so that you know, the families at least have that information. You know, what they do with it, we’ve found you know, varies on the parent. Some parents are ready to hear it and some parents aren’t, but at least they have that in their minds.
Eric: So, what else do you [inaudible 00:11:30] person of first contact?
Christi: So, we have our pamphlets in pediatric dentist offices, we have them in [inaudible 00:11:40], elementary schools.
Annette: Oh gosh… fire stations, we have them in all kinds of businesses throughout Texas; [Kelsey Segal] is actually one of our biggest carriers right now, we have all fourteen locations in the state of Texas.
Eric: I’m not familiar with that, what is that?
Christa: It’s a hospital system.
Christi: And we also have them in like birthing centers and in many places like that, maternity…
Annette: And we’re about to get into a pregnancy center as well. So, before they even have, you know, the child, our goal is to educate parents, especially mamas before they even have the baby, about the importance of water because our babies are being washed before they even go home, so they’re in water you know, before they hit the house. And so, it’s so important that we teach water safety to moms.
Christi: We can’t even leave the hospital as moms with our baby without having a car seat properly strapped in the car.
Eric: I say that all the time.
Christi: Yeah, So why are we leaving the hospital without any information about how to keep safe them safe around the water?
Eric: Yeah, absolutely.
Christi: Even in the one to four year old age group, you know drowning is the number one cause of accidental deaths. And that’s fourteen times higher than a car accident; why are we [inaudible 00:13:14] that? Why are we focusing [inaudible 00:13:16], you know?
Eric: Yeah, and no one is making sure that the pool you have in your backyard is secure in anyway. You know, your car is secure, but no one is checking to make sure you have a fence or alarms or you know, something to make sure your pool is safer. It’s weird thinking, you know.
Eric: Why do you think that is? Why do you think, like cars and things like that get so much attention and regulation, but pools don’t?
Annette: Well, kind of like what we’ve been told, is there so many topics of discussion that health care providers need to discuss, that when something new comes out, one gets pushed under. So, unfortunately swimming lessons or talking about water safety in general, I think has just gotten pushed down.
Eric: I mean, we know drowning is number one, it’s been number one since I was sixteen and I’ve been doing this. And you know, car seats have been a thing in cars since I was a baby. So, it just seems strange that you know, the car companies or car seats now made [inaudible 00:14:25] latch on and become you know, a part of the culture, but drowning even though it’s far more prevalent, fourteen times like you said, doesn’t get the same traction.
Annette: I think too, Eric that statistics, people have to have the statistics. So, swim lessons showed that a child above the age of five is eighty percent less likely to drown if they have lessons. So, I think statistics always have a kind of a back for [crosstalk]…
Christi: I think, I mean, from our experience, talking to pediatricians and talking to these doctors, a lot of them don’t even know the statistics.
Christi: So, I think a lot of it is just lack of awareness, lack of knowledge and it’s just not being put out there enough. I mean, we see it in the news, but then everyone thinks “oh, how tragic” and then it just goes away. They don’t really understand; I know that every time we talk to someone, we give them the statistics, it’s like their eyes… you know, it’s like a deer caught in headlights. They realize “oh, oh, I didn’t know that before”, and then they take it more seriously. I think that’s why it’s so important to get this information into as many offices as we can, because they just don’t know, even the doctors don’t now. As far as why it’s caught on? I think there’s been a large push from a lot of people about the car accidents and there just hasn’t been that same level of pushing. And I know there’s a lot of us organizations out here doing this and pushing for this, but I think it just hasn’t gotten, hasn’t quite reached that level yet that car accidents has and I think it’s time it does.
Eric: Have you guys… and it’s terrible that it takes this in order for us to gain momentum, but it seems to be a trend. Have you seen an uptick since the Miller story has gotten out?
Christi: Yes. You know I think that’s where the media has really caught on to it and I think that’s an important step that, you know [inaudible 00:16:31] this and yes, get the information out there. I mean, there has been you know, in my time doing this, a few a high profile drowning cases, but this is, I think the first one in the social media era and I’m hoping that you know, because we have Facebook now and you know, the Miller family in particular seems really keen on doing outreach. I know that they’ve been talking to a lot of people that I know, to make sure that they get their messaging correct and that they have the right information and they seem really intent on trying to make [inaudible 00:17:12] awareness. Hopefully it will have a bigger impact. I remember [Jack Nicholson’s], the golfer, you know, his grandchild drowned a long time ago here locally and obviously, you know, secretary Graeme Baker, lost a grandchild you know, almost twenty years ago now. And that resulted in the Virginia Graeme Baker Act, which is awesome. So, it seems like we kind of need these you know high profile cases to push things forward, but I’m hoping this one will… you know, because of the time it’s happened and Facebook, Instagram and you know, the way the news has gravitated to it that we’ll see some really, you know, not only attention but maybe for the first time real actual scalable dollars heading towards it, which I’m curious to see what that will do.
Have you seen this stuff from the pool safely campaign?
Eric: Yeah. I think that’s the last time we’ve seen you know, an organization with real resources and real money because the government and the Virginia Graeme Baker Act mandated that a certain amount of dollars be put towards water safety, and those ads are amazing. If you go look at their videos, they’re really, really, good. They’re probably some of the best pool safety material out there and for you guys, by the way, all their brochures, their pamphlets, their literature; all that stuff is free, they’ll send it to you, you just have to ask for it. And they’ll even put your logo on it by the way, they’ll brand it for you.
Eric: Yeah, and it’s all completely free, they’ll mail it to you. I have a warehouse full of stuff that I give out you know. I try to…
Annette: You have [inaudible 00:19:00], especially from the beginning when we first started out. And we do use pool safely water [inaudible 00:19:06] [tots].
Eric: Yeah, they’re great. They do a great job, they have great stuff. And I know that in the last couple of years, they’ve kind of gotten pushed down the list, they don’t get funded as much as they used to.
Annette: Yes. They’ve had to limit their water watcher tags. We used to see them by the thousands, because we do go through them that…
Christi: That quickly.
Annette: Yes. But now, it’s two hundred.
Eric: Yeah the new the new government isn’t as keen on water safety, apparently. But you know, it is what it is. But hopefully you know, I don’t know, do election, whatever things will change, but right now they’ve kind of scaled back what they’re doing. So, how do you reach out to pediatricians? I mean, do you just literally just call them? Do you show up at their office? Do you protest outside? Like…
Annette: We just go in.
Christi: Yeah. There’s several different ways. We go in and we just talk to them, kind of cold call kind of thing. But we also have ambassadors all around the country, who go and do the same thing, they have a heart for it, a lot of them are parents of children who have passed from drowning. And they just go in and they say, “Hi, did you know that these are the statistics of drowning?” And a lot of it you know… it’s interesting how quickly the pediatricians will respond when they hear the statistics.
We haven’t had any trouble getting into their offices and talking to them about it, because they really do… you know, it’s their heart, that’s their job, is to keep kids safe, but they…Yeah I mean, so it’s really not been too difficult to do it. And then a lot of it too, has been social media; Facebook and Instagram, we get a lot of people calling us from there and saying “hey, I would love to have this in our office”. While the nurse practitioners are calling us and advocating for us in their clinics.
Eric: Any OBGYNs?
Annette and Christi: Yes.
Annette: We’ve had a great outpour since the Today’s Parents’ article from Christi. We’ve had people from all over the U.S; like she was saying, nurse practitioners and pediatricians that have their own offices, we even had a photographer that takes photos of infants. She wants to use the pamphlets and take photos in ways that are a little bit different than just the norm photo of an infant. So, she wants to utilize our water safety pamphlets with it.
We had a pharmaceutical, somebody who goes throughout pediatricians and wants to display our water safety pamphlets to each pediatrician she walks into. She’s over five hundred pediatricians now and so, we’ve had that opportunity. So, it’s exciting.
Christi: Yeah, I think once, you know, our first year we really concentrated on knocking down doors and any you know, trying to get them interested. And then after that they just sort of took over and they’ve started to call us and say, “Hey, we’ve heard about your pamphlets, we’d really like to have them”. Or the trainings that we do as well.
Eric: What does the trainings entail?
Christi: So, we go into schools and pre-schools and elementary schools, babysitters groups, anyone who has a caregiver of a child, of a young child and we just talk about… we do a training about the statistics of drowning, how drowning happens, how you can make kids safer around the water, the layers of protection and basically it. Yeah. And then with the kids, we play some games focused on water safety.
And it was really cool, the other day we were at an event and we had five or six kids come up and they’re like “oh, you came to our school”.
Annette: Everybody knew us, it was so cool. It was so heartwarming because you know, in this type of work you don’t really see the effects from it you know, unless somebody really contacts you or reaches out to you. But the kids, like they knew us from all different places; like one said we went to their school, one other place said that it was at their daycare. I mean, it was just all different resources and that was really cool.
Christi: Yeah, that was cool. Quizzing them and they remember the water saving techniques that we taught them. So, you know, it’s just to see and hear that they’re listening and that it’s being effective.
Annette: Yeah. And guess what? They were all boys.
Eric: Oh, wow.
Annette: Yeah, they were all boys that was so cool. And then the other thing too, is like we notice that like when kids come to us, when they approach us, the parents are more willing to listen because when you teach water safety, the parents sometimes they take it as we’re trying to teach them how to be a parent or parent their child. And that’s not the case, the case is that we’re trying to keep their children safer around the water.
Christi: But I think, [crosstalk]… the story really impacts, I think…you know, we’ve noticed that we approach them and just say “hey, can we give you this water safety information?” They’re like “oh, yeah sure”. You know, probably throw it in the trash. But if we approach them and say, you know I want to tell you my story and I want to help keep your child safe because my child passed away from this. And that it’s like a total different reaction, they’re like “oh”. You know, it like clicks in their head, oh if it can happen to her, it can happen to me. Yeah.
Annette: And when she’s at events and stuff and they listen to her, it’s totally different, totally different. They’re like “oh, I’m sorry”. And then you get a totally different reaction and then sometimes a mama start crying, you know. But it helps them to be able to put it into their own world and to be able to say okay, you know what, I need to take this seriously.
Eric: Right, because it’s easy to say, well that happens to you know, the bad parents. But obviously talking to you and seeing you, it’s pretty clear that’s not the case. Obviously, you’re vigilant and your intelligent and well- spoken and it’s pretty clear you’re not you know, a crappy parent. So, you know, speaking to you I think anybody would get that impression. So, you know, the idea that yeah, it could happen to you then you know, who else it couldn’t it to?
Have you guys spoken to [Richard Specht]? He was a science teacher, I think and he does classroom presentations and he does a lot of really cool stuff. I don’t know if…
Annette: Yeah, [or his child].
Eric: Yeah. I don’t know if you guys considered swapping ideas with him for presentations because I know he does a lot of really… he has like a little science experiment he does, where…I’m going to get it wrong, but essentially, he combines things with water and it shows how you spread the message of water safety; it’s cool.
Annette: We did science, we do one.
Eric: How does it work?
Christi: We do one with oranges. So, we have an orange that is peeled and we have an orange that is not peeled, then we ask the kids which one is going to sink and which one is going to float. Then we let them put the oranges in and see which one sinks and which one floats. And it’s the one that’s peeled sinks, and the one that is not peeled floats. It’s when we’re talking about open water and always wearing your life jacket on open water and how if you have your life jacket on, you’re going to float and if you’re not… if you don’t, you could sink.
Annette: And we have three different life vest that we provide. So, we’ll put a big life vest on a small child and talk to them about does this fit properly? And then you know, teaching them that wearing a life vest… it’s important to wear the proper life vest.
Christi: And the kids love that one because we’ll put like a toddler life vest on a really large child and then we’ll put the big life vest on a really tiny child. And so, the kids are laughing and stuff. So, we got them engaged and talk to them about how does it, what does it look like when it actually fits.
Eric: I like the orange thing too, because it almost looks like a life vest. [It matches].
Eric: Have you guys connected at all with the folks over at families united to prevent drowning?
Eric: They’re good folks. Have you been to an NDPA conference yet?
Christi: We have. Our first one was last year.
Eric: Oh, I missed it. That’s the first one I haven’t been to in ages. I was on the board and then Vice Present, but yeah, over in Tampa.
Christi: Yes, yeah. It was really, really, good; we learned a lot and got a lot of information that’s helped us along the way and met a lot of really great people who are really dedicated to water safety. So, it’s really, really, good.
Eric: Yeah, I think it’s important because it’s you know, when you’re kind of working you’re in a silo and you’re doing your own thing, you don’t realize that you might be reinventing the wheel of something that’s been done seventy-seven times before you know. So, the NDPA is a great place to kind of meet people and kind of see not only what other people are doing, but what they’re not doing, so you can find your spot.
Eric: I was going to say, I think it was Sherri, it could be wrong though. Said at the NDPA conference, is where she found what she wanted to do, which I thought was really cool.
Annette: Yeah, that’s where we met Sherri.
Eric: Oh, wow. Okay.
Christi: Yeah, yeah. And we’ve partnered with her on a couple of things now. So, it’s been really good; because she’s not too far away from us. So, we’ve been able to partner with her and you know, promote her and what she doing and it’s really excited watching her organization grow like it is.
Christi: So, yeah.
Annette: Yeah, [inaudible 00:29:19], awesome things going. She’s has also in a really cool niche, you know. I like the idea of equipping paramedics and firefighters and police officers and people. I’m getting you know, a couple of her systems for my house because why wouldn’t you have that.
Christi: Right, exactly.
Eric: You know, it’s a cool idea and I think she’s on to something. And I’d never, before talking to her I don’t think, I had never heard that before. No one has ever recommended to me to have an oxygen tanks essentially here at the house, you know, just like you would have a fire extinguisher. And it amazes me, is you know is deep and for as long as I’ve done it, no one’s ever heard suggest that before. So, I was you know, I thought that was really cool that she’s kind of doing something unique.
Christi: Yeah. And how she’s focusing on what happens if it does happen. If it does happen, where a lot of us are focusing on the prevention side of things, but you forget that we’ve also got to focus on how do we prevent the traumatic brain injury, how do we prevent the deaths that are happening if it does happen. Because we all know that we can only be safer around the water, we can’t be totally safe around the water. So, I love that she’s chosen to focus on that side of things, I think it’s going to be a huge help.
Eric: A hundred percent. So, why do you think drowning is such a big problem in Texas in particular? I mean, lots of states have pools you know, lots of states of water, lots of states are hot but for some reason Texas in particular seems to have a problem?
Annette: We’re so big, we’re so big and like you said, we’re on the water. I don’t know if you heard this, but this is the first year that our county is not leading drownings, in Texas since ‘2013’. And we’re praying that the [inaudible 00:31:13] project itself is making a difference, it’s making impact. Last year we had a hundred and seven and this year alone we have sixty- seven, but in Harris County alone we’ve had five drownings and two of them are under the age. And then last year we had about eighteen.
Eric: That’s really cool and I imagine it has to be because you, right. It would be silly to think it wasn’t you know.
Christi: We’re praying that this is making some kind of impact. But yeah, I think the fact that like pretty much every… you know, most people in Texas as a pool or has access to a pool and then like she said, the size of Texas, just the sheer numbers we have a lot of people here and….
Annette: We also don’t have the laws of fencing around.
Christi: No, we don’t. We don’t, it’s totally optional here.
Eric: Yeah, I was going to say, I think you’re one of the few states in the sunshine [inaudible 00:32:25] we’ll call it, that doesn’t have any pool safety regulation.
Christi: Yes, it’s way too relaxed on regulations.
Eric: Yeah, and I think probably part of the culture as well, you know, there’s all this watch my kid kind of thing. And you know, as we know, almost seventy percent of people… of parents were responsible for supervising the child, when the child drown and most were thought to be inside the house and you know a good chunk of us ought to be sleeping in their bedrooms. I always say to the people who say that they just watch their kids and they watch them all the time; no I don’t need a fence or you know, I always watch my kid. Those are the ones that scare the crap out of me.
The mom who says like, no I can’t keep up, that kid is too fast, I need something. That’s a realistic mom right there, she know what the deal is, you know. The “I always watch my mom people are the scary ones, you know”.
Christi: Yes, and I get that… we get that a lot; oh, I always watch my kid, I don’t have to worry about that. And I’m like, I always watch my kids too and it still happened to me.
Christi: We’re not perfect, and you can’t have your attention on them a hundred percent of the time, you just can’t, you can’t.
Annette: Yeah. Or I don’t have a pool in my backyard, I don’t need to worry about water safety. We get so many different reasons why they watch their children around water. And puddle jumpers are such a big, I mean such an epidemic, you know.
Christi: Yeah, we don’t recommend puddle jumpers because…I mean, Judah was in a puddle jumper and he… what I didn’t realize is that it was giving him a false sense of security, it was teaching him that he could swim when he really couldn’t. So, that when he, the whole reason he went into the waters, because he thought he could swim and trying to get to his siblings. And he didn’t realize that he needed the puddle jumper to do that; that he’s not able to swim yet. And so, I tell moms that and said, you know, it’s not that the device itself is a bad thing but that it teaches your child the wrong thing and it puts them in a vertical position in the water, which is the wrong position to be in for the child to be able to breathe. That’s the position of drowning, it’s a vertical position in the waters.
Eric: So, had Judah been swimming earlier that day?
Christi: He had, yeah. He was… we were actually at the pool at the time that it happened and we had taken him out of the pool. It’s why he had come out, and he was tired and cold. And so, he went to his daddy and his daddy said, you know, go see your mamma and so, he came over to me and I took the puddle jumper off of him because I couldn’t get the towel over him with it on. And I sat him next to me and we were watching the kids in the pool, the other kids were on the other side of the pool and I did a head count, looked around and Judah wasn’t there. And so, we quickly got up and looked for him and that’s when we found him in the pool.
Eric: And how long do you think about, was he under?
Christi: A few minutes maybe, maybe, because it was about a minute between when I sat him down and when I looked around again. And then it took a minute or two to find him.
Eric: Was that at a public pool?
Christi: It was at an apartment pool, but we were at a friend’s pool.
Eric: And it wasn’t lifeguarded?
Eric: And you know, I think the first thing people think about when something like this happens is, it’s like you said you know, why don’t people know about it. And you know, I think it starts with pediatricians you know, like you said; those first place of contact. You know, the pediatric dentist and you know the people at the hospitals, the OBGYNs. You know, I had a dental hygienist on a few weeks ago and she was saying that the recommendation for you know, when you first go to the dentist now, is your first tooth, you know baby and the first tooth, you should go to the dentist. And the first time the kids in the water is in the hospital, is that first bath. And I thought, well it should be the same thing; the first time the kid touches water, there should be some instruction on water safety.
Annette: You know what would be really cool, Erick, is like if while the babies are getting a bath the nurse is sitting there talking to them about the layers of protection for water safety, may give a pamphlet, because at that moment new moms or a mom that have been a mom before, they’ll listen at that time; it’s just such a crucial moment.
Christi: And they want to keep their babies completely safe, so they’re really focused on that at time. So, it’s a really good time to get the information to them. And it’s one of the things we want to do, is get into maternity wards and be able to get our pamphlets in there.
Annette: Teach it like breastfeeding, you now.
Eric: Yeah, or the car seat thing, crazy thing, like we said. You know, that’s built into the culture, you know, you would be the worst mom ever if you stuck your infant in the backseat of a car and drove home without a car seat. You’d get pulled over, you’d get arrested, your kid would get taken away for child abuse, but you can take the same kid you know home in the car seat to a house with a pool, with no fence, with no lessons, with no training, with the back door wide open and no one thinks twice about it.
Annette: There’s an analogy, you know, pool is so similar to like a burning building. So, you have two different scenarios, right and you’re calling everybody to the burning building. And as you’re calling the people to the burning building, you’re telling them to come to the fire; a pool is the same thing. So, it’s just different because it’s not fire, but we treat it just like fire.
Christi: You know, but we tell people to stay away from the burning building but we don’t tell people, or to be safe, we don’t tell people to stay away from the water until you can respect it, until you can get the skills that you need for it, to be careful around it. We tell them, “hey, come on in, this is a fun place to be”, without actually talking to them about the risks of the water and to respect the water before you go and have fun in it.
Eric: You know, Bode Miller’s wife, Morgan put it away I hadn’t heard before in an interview. She said, now when she looks at the pool, she sees you know, it’s a lion, it’s a kidnapper, it’s a dangerous, dark thing that’s in her backyard. And you know, that’s a great way to think about it, you know, this is literally it’s a kidnapper, it’s something that steals children. And if you think of it like that that it’s a hungry lion in your backyard, waiting to reach out and get you, that is a much more realistic depiction, actually of what’s going on, than your backyard oasis paradise. In life, I think you know, everything you guys are doing and the works that’s happening you know, around the country in the other organizations I’m hoping the biggest change we’re having is a change in the culture. And I think it’s you know, between the Millers and all the non-profits and the N.D.P.A. you know, things like this podcast, you know, we’re kind of hammering the message home over and over again. And it’s permeating it throughout the culture that people are starting to respect the pool, like you said, like a burning building or like a firearm safety. You wouldn’t pick up a gun if you didn’t know how to use it. You shouldn’t get in a pool if you don’t know how to swim in it. You know, that there’s these kind of rules of engagement and I think that’s hopefully we’re making some kind of difference. And like you said, the numbers in your area have gone down.
I’ve heard that in other areas where we have [non-profits]. I know the numbers here haven’t been as great, so hopefully we start to see some sort of national trend.
Annette: Yeah. We went to watch lessons not too long ago and there was a parent there that said that they got their daughter in lessons because of the Judah Brown project. That was exciting to hear.
Eric: That’s cool.
Annette: It’s just exciting to hear that kind of feedback, because we just always don’t hear the positive from all of this.
Christi: You know how many drownings there are every year, but you don’t know how many have been saved from drowning because of all the non-profits and because of all the Bode Miller stories and things like that, you just don’t know. So, it’s really nice to hear when parents say, you know your organization has impacted me and I’m going to keep my child safer round the water because of Judah and because of Rory or because of Kareem or whoever, that these children are being safer.
Eric: Yeah, we’ve said that a lot with the pool fences. There’s no way to know which family got a pool fence and their kid didn’t drown. And it kind of, I mean, obviously I don’t want to know who died, but it would be cool to have the numbers, you know. Because I think, there has to be, right? I mean, there’s no way you can install thousands of pool fences over thirty years and there hasn’t been someone who’s grown up now, even has their own kids that wouldn’t have made it otherwise.
Christi: [inaudible 00:42:56].
Eric: [inaudible 00:42:59] it’s a cool thing. So, what’s your plan going forward, you know, what do you guys have plan for the future, what’s your goal, what’s the kind of dream vision if you had to have one?
Christi: So, I think to be able to get out pamphlets into offices nationwide and to be able to see the [NAP] change their regulations and basically make it mandatory for pediatricians to talk to parents about water safety in their checkups, for the well checkups for the kids, we’d like to see that happen.
Annette: And just being talked about by any health care professional you know, whether it be a pediatrician or a dentist, not just you know in pediatricians’ offices too.
Christi: Yeah, preschools as well. We can get into school. I would love to see… because Australia has this and we don’t; where it’s the swimming lessons, they have it in the schools and it’s government funded. So, that there’s no barrier between being able to learn and to save yourself, being able to learn to swim. And because right now, it’s kind of the privilege of the wealthy or the semi wealthy. It’s very expensive and I don’t think it should be that way, so I would love to see the government understand how important it is and how it’s more of a right… it should be more of a right than a privilege and be able to subsidize that, so that everyone can learn instead of just people who can afford it.
Annette: Because what the [inaudible 00:44:48] foundations are having to raise so much funding to provide lessons for children. And as we all know, this is the last layer of protection, right? So, it’s just so crucial you know, that children have these lessons. And the lessons that make a difference, swim, float, swim, not just lessons swim lessons.
Eric: Melissa Sutton, who is the president of the N.D.P. A, the [inaudible 00:45:17] French alliance, she just got back from a tour in Australia, she was there I think almost a month and maybe not, I may be wrong about that, she’s probably going to kill me. But she was really impressed with you know, kind of the water safety infrastructure that they had going on there.
You know, she talked about the real life saving society and how they’ve been around for over a hundred years. You know, you’ve been doing this a long, long, time, it’s part of the government and you know, we don’t have a kind of equivalent like that here.
Christi: Yeah, and we need one. I think that is going to be crucial to getting this nationwide and to getting all of this like a nationwide structure, is to get it you know, a government agency that does focus on water safety.
Eric: Have you spoken to the American Academy Pediatrics yet?
Christi: We’re in the process of trying to get in contact with them, yes.
Annette: Yeah, we’re in the process. You know her husband is from Australia?
Eric: I do not.
Christi: Yeah, he’s Australian.
Eric: Very cool. How long has he been here?
Christi: He’s been here about six years.
Eric: Okay, so pretty recent. So, what is his opinion on the difference between water safety in Australia and here?
Christi: Oh, he was shocked at how little it happens here and how little structure we have around it here, he was absolutely shocked and appalled.
Christi: Yeah. Because he said it’s so much different there, every child learns how to swim; if not private lessons then they learn in school. And they have water safety information all over the place in Australia, it’s a culture of we need to be safe around the water and here it is just not.
So, you know they’re surrounded by water and most of their population is around the water, they don’t have a lot of population in the middle. So, I mean, yeah, it’s important for them and it should be [inaudible 00:47:17].
Eric: Kate who works with me and I don’t know if you’ve ever seen us do jeopardy, but she has [inaudible 00:47:22] with me. She went to college in Australia and she was a competitive swimmer in college, in the States. So, she was in the college in US, did competitive swimming, did very well, won a lot, went to Australia figured she would do the same thing and immediately figured out that she is good in America, but she is bottom of the rung in Australia, that she just isn’t you know, up to the standards of what they consider a good swimmer. And you know, she’s like yeah, because they start at birth, like they swim their entire lives. She goes, you know, I’m a really good swimmer for an American and I am a crappy swimmer in Australia. So much so that she quit doing it, she’s like I can’t keep up with these people, they are amazing.
But yeah, I mean, so even that alone you can just tell that their experience with the water is so much deeper that we have here.
Annette: Yeah. Well when kids are… if there’s a child swimming alone in the pool in Australia and they’re not with a parent you know, they could be fine. And yeah, it’s very differently here in the States. Very, very, different, very relaxed here in the states.
Eric: I know they have a national pool fence law that every pool has to have a fence. I may not like what kind of fence that is, but it’s still a fence, it’s better than nothing.
So, do you guys have any events coming up or…?
Annette: We have quite a bit going on. It’s day to day, people will call us and say can you come, so it’s one of those things where you know every day is something different.
Christi: We have a garage sale coming up, we’re trying to raise money so that we can provide more pamphlets to people, we’ve got an influx of requests for pamphlets with the article that came out on the Today Show. And so, we’re working on that right now and we also have a meeting where we’re going to be training nurse practitioners for [inaudible 0:49:26] group soon. So, that’s in September.
Annette: We’re planning a run next year.
Christi: Yeah, we’re looking at planning our first annual [inaudible 00:49:40] project fun run.
Annette: Christi is going to run, she’s a runner. So, that’s been one of our goals, is to plan a run.
Christi: We expect to be in schools this year, we were in two schools last year doing in our in our local school district, doing our trainings every day. So, we reached sixteen hundred kids.
Annette: [inaudible 00:50:06], yeah. Sixteen hundred students just in two schools.
Christi: And this year we’ve been invited into more schools and we’ve been invited to another school district in the area. So, we’ll be busy doing those trainings as well.
Annette: And we’re about to meet with counselors from all different school districts in Texas to speak to different schools as well.
Eric: That’s really cool. I haven’t actually seen your Today Show interview, how did that happen?
Annette: It’s I’m Today’s Parents and the Today’s show as shared it and Hoda and Kathie Lee and then it kind of just went from there.
Christi: It was interesting, I was on a Facebook page talking about some water safety with someone and it happened to be a contributor to The Today Show and also a contributor to a few other places like Huffington Post. And she just said, you know, I want to tell your story but it’s too much for my venue, so let me talk to my editor and so, she did. She spoke with their editor and got back with me and asked me to write a story for them and then they ended up putting it on their Today show. So, yeah.
Eric: I actually did read that then. Okay, I thought maybe it was a T.V. thing, but no, I read the article, it’s really good.
Annette: Yeah, Houston Chronicle has really plat formed our foundation. It’s all been such a God thing. All these media sources have all reached out to us, we haven’t reached out to any of them. So, it’s been such a blessing. And since then it’s just been amazing. We get calls all the time, “can you do an interview?” “Sure”.
It’s different you know, because we’re just…