The Silent Killer

Gold Coast mum Gemma Young relives the worst day of her life to raise awareness about infant and childhood drowning 

My daughter Lily was seven. It was the day of her birthday party and that afternoon we had another birthday party to go to a pool party. After her party in the morning and wrangling 12 kids I was exhausted. When we arrived at the pool party the mum of the birthday girl informed me that someone was there specifically to act as a lifesaver and told me to, “Take a break after your morning, you deserve it.” So I thought fine, I would. 

After 15 minutes there was screaming and I went to see what was happening and Lily was being dragged from the pool. She was limp and pale. I didn’t recognise her at first because she was so white. My immediate thought was “Holy s*** whose kid is that? Oh my God, that poor parent.” And then I recognised it was Lily by  her swimmers. 

According to other people there I started screaming because she looked dead. I thought she died. And it was my fault because I wasn’t watching her. I don’t know how, but I jumped the pool fence quickly and somebody had started to perform CPR and she vomited. Her eyes opened but they were like pinpoints. I realised she wasn’t dead but she was not looking great. I called 000 but I couldn’t speak coherently so I got somebody else to take over. 

I called my partner and he said, “I just left you, I just got home, what do you mean?” It all happened so fast. He met us at the hospital with our son. Lily was transported to the hospital by ambulance and she started to regain consciousness. Her eyes were starting to focus and regain colour.  

When we got to the hospital there was a room off to the side and there were heating lamps, the table was heated and there were at least 12 people in a tiny room when Lily was wheeled in. Thankfully, Lily ended up being okay and we stayed there overnight. 

I had to talk to the police. I received  messages from all the parents at the party saying that they hoped everything was okay and I just didn’t want to talk to them or anyone except my partner. Then we found out the local news stations had turned up while we were in the ambulance and they were filming, so we had to contact people before they found out half stories from the news.  

After the police reviewed CCTV footage they found out she was underwater for a minute.  

Lily had some swimming lessons before the incident but she wasn’t particularly confident with them. The price was just not within our means at the time. I had told her that day that even though she had lessons she still needed to stay at the shallow end on the edge of the pool but she became disoriented and mixed up the shallow end with the deep end. 

Myself and a lot of people present on that day  learnt  that drowning doesn’t look it does in the movies. It’s really quiet and unless you’re actively paying attention you probably wouldn’t notice. People who are struggling to breathe, they’re not thrashing around and calling for help, they just keep their head above water, getting as much air as possible so it’s really quiet, and can be deadly. 

This was just a few weeks before Christmas so if Lily wasn’t okay we’d be having a funeral rather than Christmas. 



We’ve heard them on the TV and know them but here’s five vital steps to ensure your summer around the pool is a happy one. 

  1. Fence the pool 
  1. Shut the gate 
  1. Teach your kids to swim – it’s great 
  1. Supervise – watch your mate and 
  1. Learn how to resuscitate 
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