Swimming Coach: Recovery Iffy For Shallow-Water Blackouts

Lynchburg, VA - What seemed like a friendly game of holding your breath the longest almost killed 15-year-old Bailey Thomas.He nearly drowned at a family pool waking up in the hospital not remember much. "My brother and my cousin started talking to me with it, about it and I remember some things in my head, some things coming to me like playing games," said Bailey Thomas.His father Eric Thomas says it was just a game that so many people play.

"It starts at childhood, it goes all the way through adulthood," said Eric Thomas.

But that game led to a shallow-water blackout.

"It's very serious, mostly because people not being aware of what causes it," said TJ Liston.Liston is the director of competitive swimming at the Lynchburg YMCAs coaching upwards of 100 kids each year. He tells ABC 13 more often than not these blackouts happen to better swimmers because they make themselves hyperventilate before jumping into the water."Their body thinks they've got enough oxygen and when they don't have enough carbon dioxide, they're not being told to breathe mentally because nothing is triggering that thought process, so they pass out," said Liston. "They're underwater so they're first breath is a full breath of water into the lungs and trying to recover is iffy very at best."Liston says Bailey was fortunate to survive with more than 3500 drowning deaths a year according to the CDC, the fifth leading cause for unintentional injury death in the US."The EMT workers were amazing, how it all worked, how God, he prepared it," said Bailey Thomas.

Liston says it's a problem he constantly teaches his team. In fact, on the wall at the YMCA, you'll see a sign that says no holding of breath trying to avoid any tragedies in the pool.

How can swimmers protect themselves?

Liston says the simple answer is not holding your breath longer than comfortable. Also, never take deep breathes or hyperventilate before going under water. He adds always swim with a partner as you may never know what can happen in the water.