Episode 5

Episode 5 July 08, 2021 01:03:01
Episode 5
The Water Safety Podcast
Episode 5

Show Notes

Join Adam Katchmarchi and Laura Metro as they interview Dana Gage, Founder of the LV Project and Connor Gage's Mom. Her Dana share Connor's story and learn about Dana's fight for change. This is Dana Gage's water safety story.

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 0 00:00:04 Welcome to the NDPA water safety podcast, where we learn about people's water, safety story. And now your host, Adam <inaudible> and Laura Metro. All right. Welcome back to what episode is it now? Laura episode five of the MDPA podcast. They call me Dr. PetSmart, but I have trouble counting to five, you know, that's why five fingers. Yeah. Five fifth episode. Yeah, fifth episode already. And, um, yeah, we've had some great interviews. So far talk to Alyssa. Mangrum talked about through talked to Blake Collingsworth and I am really excited. I want to jump right into today's interview because when we started this podcast, uh, today's guest was at the top of my list that I wanted to bring on, uh, in the first few episodes. So let's add in our guests today. Ms. Dana gave hi, Dana. Speaker 1 00:01:00 I, everybody, I Adam, hi, Laura. Speaker 0 00:01:03 Right there. How are you Dana? Doing Speaker 1 00:01:06 Great. Thank you. How about y'all Speaker 2 00:01:09 Hanging in there. It's getting happier DC. Yeah. And you're getting out there and PA Speaker 0 00:01:15 It's humid. Not, not super hot, but humid. Yeah. Speaker 1 00:01:19 Oh, it's humid heat index. 105 in Texas yesterday. So, Speaker 0 00:01:25 Oh God. There are times of the year that I, I don't like living in Pennsylvania to tell you the truth, but this is one of those times a year that I I'm glad I don't live in like Texas, Arizona, Florida, you know, it's funny. I, uh, I actually said to someone, I went to Disney a few years ago and I, for some reason, just randomly chose to go in the middle of July thinking that would be a good idea. Um, oh yeah, but it's, it's monsoon season. It's 110 degrees and humidity is a thousand percent. Um, and you know, I'm a small guy, so you know, nothing to worry about. Um, you know, and you're just on like, you know, small, right. Millions of tons of concrete in the baking sun, what could go wrong? Right. So I swore I would never, ever, ever go back to Florida in the month of July. Speaker 0 00:02:09 And I know I now have a trip booked for, I think, early July to go back to Florida. So, you know, can't, you can't get a cake out of the humidity. I know, thank God for air conditioning. So let's get into, uh, the interview today. So David, to give you a little bit of background, our new podcast series is really diving into people's water, safety stories. You know, what drives you to, uh, work towards change in water safety? Um, so, you know, we, a lot of times I know our viewers, you know, here, you see you talking about life jackets, talking about boating safety, sharing Connor's story, but you know, this is where we'd like to go in and actually learn the water safety story, um, what your foundation does, what you do and just, you know, kind of explore and, um, you know, Laura and I will take the conversation a million different ways. So we've probably been confusing our audience a little bit, but you also Speaker 2 00:03:03 Bring in those tips and tricks like that we've talked about. So, you know, we're, it gives us, you know, we were saying our webinars series is a lot more educational, you know, a lot more technical at times, but this brings in, you know, the, the history, the stories, the motivations, but then also those, you know, we want people to walk away having, you know, felt something, but also having some like actionable tools that they can go and do, as soon as they, as they leave, you know, for you, it could be as simple as go violate Fest, you know, or I'm sure you have a bunch of other things that you can talk about to, you know, so that's kind of where we're able to have some time here to, to really get into it and have a conversation and have people get to know you and then leave with, you know, some really useful information to take home to their world. Speaker 1 00:03:51 That sounds great. Well, thank you guys very much for having me. I'm excited to be here. Speaker 0 00:03:58 Well, Dana, um, well, let's start, um, you know, share a little bit about you, who you are, your background and, um, uh, you know, you can go into your water safety story for as much as you'd like. Speaker 1 00:04:10 Sure. Well, um, well I was born on a sunny day. Uh, I was born in Texas, grew up in Oklahoma on a farm. I was raised in a town of 900 people. I was taught to tell people I graduated in the top 10 of my class, but I am a top 10 grad. I'm just saying. Um, but you know, I grew up around nature and roaming the farms. Um, we had wheat cotton and cattle at the same time. My dad was a journalist, um, and a college professor. So we had, I had sort of this, uh, you know, a rural life with, uh, very educated parents. And, um, I, uh, moved to Texas after I graduated college and, uh, married my college sweetheart gage, uh, teacher and, um, in Texas. And, uh, we had two boys that were born 18 months apart. Uh, their names are Riley and Connor and, you know, the way we described our boys was just, you know, they were best friends who happened to be brothers is a way I would put it. Speaker 1 00:05:21 They just, you know, they were never the bickering boys. They just got along famously. And, um, you know, we just were kind of living the dream, you know, everything was fantastic. And, uh, when, probably when the boys were in grade school, you know, I grew up on this farm, right. I was roaming the countrysides and the land. And, um, there's a lot of freedom and creativity and being able to have wide open spaces. And so I'm a very creative person and my boys were exhibiting sorta the same tendencies as native creatives. And I, it was driving me nuts that my voice could not, um, uh, go out on the land. We lived in Dallas Fort worth at that point. And, um, so we bought a lake house and we became like people, we had a, you know, a ski boat. Um, the boys were both us kinda started certified. Speaker 1 00:06:22 Uh, we had, you know, personal watercrafts and I just, we were in a small town, right. Like couple hours outside of Dallas Fort worth. And we would go pretty much every weekend from the times of time, the boys were really little, um, and they became sort of a that's where they got their, uh, nature fits, I guess. Um, so, you know, I, I will say now that I am in the water safety space, and I don't know how much you probably, I could probably talk for the rest of the podcast without you guys checking. So if you guys have me when I need to, but you know, as much as we were, um, like people, we were safety people, um, and you know, since I've been in the water safety space, I now see many of the things that I didn't know, um, particularly related to voting. Speaker 1 00:07:12 Um, I there's just so much, I didn't realize, um, that I would do differently now, but one of the things that we were very consistent on is like this, you know? And, um, when I tell my story, I always want to, I want to caveat it with, um, you know, when I share my story about what happened to my, my son, um, I always caveat it with, this is not about blame. This is about awareness. It's not that blame, it's about awareness. And, you know, I always tell people when I tell my story, you're going to feel so sorry for me. You know, you're going to feel so sorry for me. And I appreciate it. I received the sympathy and the empathy, but what the reason I tell my story is because I don't want you to be me. You know, I don't want you to be me because it's no fun. Speaker 1 00:08:14 So, so, you know, that's kind of the background, um, you know, small town girl in Oklahoma, married college, sweetheart moves to the big city, driving her crazy that she can't get her kids out and make her buy a lake house. Um, and when I say lake house, just a tiny little cottage don't, you know, and then you get the wrong. Um, and, um, you know, everything was pretty great. Um, and the day that we lost Connor, so Riley and Connor, 18 months apart, Riley is a junior in high school and Connor is a freshmen and it's, uh, August 31st of 12 Connor's 15 years old, Riley is 16 years old and they both have these ridiculously like long legs. Right. Um, and they were both runners. And my son Riley was the head of the lead on the cross country team. He was the leader of the cross country team and, um, very, very talented runner. And, um, as a freshman, Connor made the varsity cross country team. And he was so bummed because like, he was, didn't want to be on the varsity team because he want to be on JV. Cause he knew he would always finish first that way. Speaker 1 00:09:37 And I just remember laughing and I'm like, oh, you poor baby. You know, um, you poor talented runner. I feel so sorry for you. Um, and I don't know, do you guys know much about cross country? I do. So then you know that it's an individual sport, but it's also a team sport. So the five runners, I dictate the team Spanish, and then you also get ranked on your individual finish. And so August 31st, 2012, we had just started school is the first cross country meet and Riley and Connor are running their first meet together as teammates on the varsity team. And, you know, I remember that morning, my husband and I were just like, you know, man, it's all coming together. You know, we were in the sweet spot. This is what you've worked for. You work, you know, our boys were so close in age, just getting them to that point where they're enjoying their high school years together in all of the ecosystem that goes along with that. Speaker 1 00:10:40 Right. You know, it's Brett and I had made some moves along the way that were hard. You know, we actually moved from one town to another pick the boys in a different school, you know, and we finally, you know, as I, as I was describing it, you know, like everyone, we, we had this, our, our life was a puzzle, you know, and piece by piece, by piece, by piece, by piece, we're putting it together. And it felt like literally we can see the picture. Like it was all and, uh, not, not perfect, but pretty dang great. And, um, so Connor got an invitation to the lake and he, um, uh, later that day they ran a first cross country meet together and oh, I wanted to back up a second Connor Riley finished first that day. And because Connor finished fifth, top five runners dictate the team score. Speaker 1 00:11:33 Um, their team came in first that day and I was like, wait a go buddy. You know, that's so awesome. You know? And so to this day, there's a fifth man award and our district. Um, and that's just to commemorate Connor, but more importantly, just to give, get the message out there that, you know, finishing first, isn't always what matters, you know, uh, finishing strong matters. And I will never forget that morning. Just the feeling of like, ah, we're here and this is great. And district really, um, I'm gonna try and make it through this entire thing without losing it, but, uh, just a really proud mom really problem. And, uh, kind of got an invitation to the lake later that day. We did not let our boys go to the lake with other families that it was a holiday weekend. It was labor day weekend, and it's four day weekend. And there was like this, you know, thing that happens with holiday weekend gets an invitation to the lake. He really wants to go. So I say yes. And, um, and, and he went, he went to the lake with, uh, a family, uh, host family and four boys to celebrate one of his friends birthdays. So I'm going to take a breather right now, uh, before I get into that other story, what happened? That is there, is this kind of what you want to know? Speaker 2 00:12:59 Yes, yes. I was. Go ahead. Speaker 0 00:13:02 No, go ahead, Laura, please. I Speaker 2 00:13:04 Was going to say, you know, when you were first talking, um, you know, one of the things that, uh, was kind of shocking to me was I was also a very safety conscious mom. So I was not like a free range mom, you know, by any stretch and was neurotic at some, in some areas, you know, I always say, you know, I could install a car seat, like rival any fireman in a car seat installation. Everyone was like, if you needed a car seat installed, like just go to Laura, I forget the gas station or the car. It's fine. I mean, I mastered that and I just was, I mean, neurotic really about certain things. And you know, this just hit me it when, you know, I also start my, um, talks too, with the lack of the no blame, you know, because often when you're in a situation like we are, even though I didn't lose clay, other people were watching clay when this happened. And it's the first thing, I'm sure you've heard it a million times. It's the first thing people say, you know, it's like, it's not your fault, it's their fault. Or, you know, and it's like, we're not even, that's not even what we're looking for at this point, you know, Speaker 1 00:14:14 Daniella and I will talk about that. You know, people, people need a reason when something so illogical as a child dying happens, they need something to pin that on. And I do pin it on lack of a life vest. And I'll talk about that in a minute. Um, but I also know that culturally, we have a long way to go to make that a norm. And you know, you don't know, you don't know. So I mean, candidly, I had my own issues with what happened that day. There was a lot of things done incorrectly day, many, many, many things, many things that frankly are not excusable, but the, the baseline is a life vest, you know, forget all the other steps. The baseline is a life there. So, you know, Connor got that invite Laura and, you know, his situation is a little bit like Clay's and that it was a kind of a, a group environment. Speaker 1 00:15:16 You know, there was a lot of, um, there was, uh, uh, not quite, probably quite as many as clays incident, but, you know, there was a group of people together and, you know, they go out to the lake and it's, um, a possum kingdom lake, which is a very big, like feeds into the brass house here in Texas. It's a, it's a huge like, and, um, it's Connor for boys and hosts two parents. And, you know, um, they got there pretty late in the day. It was around, I dunno, five 30 or so six o'clock, but you know, it's a holiday weekend, you get four teenage or five teenage boys around a body of water and they want to swim. And they did ask for permission to swim and they got permission to swim from the parents. And, um, Connor did what he had done at our lake house. Speaker 1 00:16:12 Literally thousands of times, I'm not even exaggerating. They, they were playing follow the leader off of the top of the boat dock and he did a flip and he landed badly and he didn't, he didn't resurface. And at first his friends were like, you know, kind of was funny. He was just stupid, funny, like just a, really a very, just a, just a fun guy. And so his friends thought he's, he's, you know, he's pulling one over on us and, but they quickly figured out that something was wrong and you know, the lake, it was late in the day. Um, he jumped in at 8, 15, 8, 15, the sun had set at 7 55 that's mistake. Number one, you know, when that sun is setting, get your kids out of the water period like us or no life as get your kids out of the water too. It's a lake, you know, it's murky and it's deep. Speaker 1 00:17:29 The lake was 20 feet deep where my son jumped in and, um, and three, and the most important thing is he wasn't wearing a black jacket. The parents were not watching. The assumption was these are good swimmers. These boys, how to swim. They didn't put life jackets on those boys. And, um, probably the biggest question I get asked going back to that formula thing, Laura is like, well, what happened? You know, like what happened? Connor died. That's what happened? You know what? I would get that question all the time, what happened, what Connor died, because he didn't have a life jacket on. And they pulled con Connor from the bottom of the lake, um, 45 minutes after he jumped in. And, um, you know, that's the day that are really perfect life to shattered into a million pieces. And, you know, there's so many factors that went into that night, you know? Speaker 1 00:18:50 Um, no life jackets boys were swimming way too late. Um, the parents weren't watching the host family were not experienced like people, they, they rented the lighthouse for their son's birthday party that said bid no, no. And it's because people think, you know, water's fun. They don't realize water's dangerous. And they just didn't know. They thought because a kid knows how to swim. I mean, these boys are big and strong, but they're boys. And, um, you know, that, that was it. Um, we lost ourselves and, um, it's been nine years. Connor would be 24. Now we lost him at 15 and, you know, just nothing has changed or nothing has been the same. Nothing is ever going to be again. Um, and I'm now doing this, uh, with the LD project to try and think Speaker 2 00:19:53 Of, or for that, for doing this. And I think, you know, what I'd like to hear too. And Adam is, so when was it, or what was it, if you can pinpoint after this, that made you decide to get active in this space, because you know, it's, as you know, like we've, we've, we've met so many people over the years that either do not choose to get active or choose to get active in different spaces, um, you know, or continue on with their lives. And we have people in VMC United that have come back 20 plus years later after their child had passed to get active at that point. So what was it that if there was a part or a turning point that you said I'm going to do something I'm going to, I'm going to dedicate myself to this. Speaker 1 00:20:42 It was rage. I was so angry that Connor died because his death was so preventable. And why didn't these people know what, what we knew. And I, and I say this, you know, I say this, not saying we did everything correctly, but like, but we always use life fast. Even if they were just getting on the shoreline, we had a tow invest on policy. So I was so angry. And probably the thing that I was most angry about is people just needed a, some kind of checkbox. If they could, you know, tick off to say, well, this is why Connor died. You know, I got asked so many times what happened, you know, did he get his head? Did he hit something under the surface? Did he have a health condition? And all of those things are possible, um, in lakes. Um, but that's not what happened. Speaker 1 00:21:37 He just had a bad ball who can't, who, who might not have a bad bowl. There have been people in five feet of water in the lake, good swimmer, strong swimmers who drowned because they either get a cramp or they, they just take a bad goal or they get disoriented, or they have some unexpected condition. What happened? My son jumped in the water and he died because he wasn't wearing. And that's where I just lose my mind because when I, when I would get that question, that's exactly how I wanted to answer what happened and died. That's what happened in yours could too, if you don't do the right things. And so honestly the night that I lost him guys, uh, I mean, it was a horrific night. Uh, there've been so many offshoots of this. I barely know where to start, but my brain could not, my brain couldn't, couldn't accept it. Speaker 1 00:22:35 Like my brain couldn't accept it. And I'm a writer as well. And I sat down and I had to ask myself, okay, I need to actually write it down. Like, what happened tonight? What, what, what happened? How did my son die? Like I needed the steps and I wrote five hours, one Friday that night. Um, and, uh, I, that's a core marketing piece for us now. And it takes you from five 30 to 10 30, and those are the hours in between that. Um, you know, we're in the, our life went from wonderful to, to really challenging. And, um, so, you know, I think when you're hit with trauma, blunt force trauma, you know, you have to step outside yourself sometimes and look at yourself from the outside in and say, okay, I'm going to explain to you. I was saying this to myself, I'm going to explain to you what happened. Speaker 1 00:23:34 And so when I got to the end of the, what happened, it said, in my own words, it said he wasn't wearing a life vest. And that's where I stopped. And my next move almost immediately was to go to Texas parks and wildlife. So I met with them about two weeks after Connor died. And I said to them, I want to know how many kids are dying in lakes in the state. And the answer was pretty tough because they couldn't tell me that could not tell me. And that I was like, wait, what? You can't tell me the number. And that's when I learned how fragmented drowning prevention is because Texas parks and wildlife measures voting fatalities, but they don't measure like fatalities. There's not like it's not like where the NTSB and I'm I'm know I'm preaching to the choir with you guys. There's no one, you know, singular funnel where all of the information and the data goes. And so that's when I realized, you know, there's a big, we have a big challenge here and, you know, to answer your question directly, anger, anger fueled me and the desire to prevent it from, from happening to other mothers, um, fueled me and still does Speaker 0 00:25:06 Well. Dana, I want to dive in to one particular piece with you a little bit. And, you know, unfortunately I have gone on two or three calls that were requested by particular states over the past couple of weeks, because, uh, in one in particular, you know, they're seeing drowning rates spike in certain areas and they don't want to talk about, you know, what interventions are being used out there. What can they start doing in their communities? And oftentimes, unfortunately it takes to that point where, you know, a community is experiencing such loss where before they reach out, you know, and start getting these things in line. Um, but it was really interesting, you know, one state in particular said, you know, our biggest issue is teenage males in lakes and, you know, and they asked me, you know, well, what is the solution? And, you know, I said, life jackets and, um, you know, one of the solutions and, you know, they said to me, something you and I have had a discussion about for a long time is how do you make life jackets? Cool. How do you actually get these teenage males who think they're invincible to wear it? And I know you've done a lot of thought around that. Speaker 1 00:26:13 I have, yes, we have Speaker 2 00:26:15 To design it. That's arguing. We're going to design it. Dana, Speaker 1 00:26:19 How long do we have, you know, like, um, I, so a couple of things that after kind of figuring out that there's no aggregated data for drownings, um, I just started digging and there's the CDC more morbidity and mortality report from 2014, Julie Gilchrist drowning desks for, for a 10 year period. And that data really revealed that, um, we have a teenage drowning problem and drowning rates triple at age 50 in open water. And the drowning rates remain elevated throughout adulthood. But every time you heard about drowning, it was mostly little kids in pools. And believe me, every there's, there's no diminishing any loss of life here. It all matters. But there it is. Remarkably, the open water drowning problem is remarkably under-reported. And I believe the reason why is because of victim blaming. There, there are so many people that will say, well, he was being reckless or he was, you know, he was not, I even, they even asked if he was drinking. Speaker 1 00:27:38 No, he wasn't drinking. He's 15 years old. He's not drinking. Um, it is a problem. Drinking is a problem at older ages, but that, you know, at the, at the time when the drowning rates are tripling, that is not the problem. It's exactly what you said. Adam nine out of 10 are male, 80% are on the shorelines, not in boats yet. The only life jacket laws we have in our country are connected to boats. And those, most of them say, according to the us coast guard regulation, that you only have to wear them till you're 12 years old and only in a boat under 26 feet. So there's this presumed Rite of passage and presumed assumption of safety that, okay, well, once my kids are 13, if they're on a lake, as long as he knows how to swim, I'm good because that's what the loss is. And as those coming off the ground are going through the roof. Speaker 2 00:28:33 I was gonna say, you know, one of the things that we seem to have a theme, which we've all said is, um, I didn't know. And the reality is, is that we didn't know. And most people don't know it's completely innocent, you know? And I like to tell people, I mean, my family, I always say this, I have a blue stones in my wedding band because I liked oceans and Matt like lake dinner, lakes and rivers. I mean, my whole, we have grew up going to the beach. My, my uncle and cousin taught my husband how to fish. We've been kayaks. Every boat you can imagine. Right? And then here we were in this situation and it wasn't until meeting you. And that I would then go on the boat. And I said to my own cousin, who's been on the boat, his entire life. Speaker 2 00:29:17 Now he may, he can make the choice not to wear life as he's a grown, you know, grown ass man, you know, so, but, but he has the information and I, I use the language, I think either you use or someone use it another point, which was if Michael Phelps is on a boat and he slips and falls and hits his head and he passes out, I've got like this much visibility before he sinks, like Michael Phelps has to wear a life vest, you know? And that usually gets people it's like, it's not about swimability. And that is usually one visual really quick, getting them to understand what the purpose of this is, you know? And most people just in their minds, think of these little kids with the little light that's on in the pool, they're just not putting it together. And it's this constant state of awareness. We're trying to put people in because they don't know. And like you said, the disjointed data, you know, this is a bigger problem. And again, yes, there are situations where there's negligence, but that's not what we're talking about. You know, we're talking about people who are genuinely safety conscious. They're not being irresponsible, generally speaking, you know, and there's just all these cases of, I didn't know, I didn't know, Speaker 1 00:30:35 No one goes to the lake to die yet thousands do every year. And I, you know, I think the biggest challenge, you know, Adam, you would ask like, how do we, how do we tackle this? And I spent nine years asking myself that question, and I'm just a mom in Fort worth, Texas, you know? And, uh, first of all, it's going to take all of us. Um, you know, it's going to take a collective of people, which is one of the driving factors behind families United. I realized early on that to get water safety momentum in this country, we're going to have to talk about water, all water, but that, you know, the, the fact that a teenage and adult drownings are so prevalent for every one person who dies in a pool, depending on which report you look at, there's at least four or five who die in, uh, a body of open water. Speaker 1 00:31:33 So our problem, our drowning problem in this country is actually at the older ages, but nobody knows that. So what do we do? We got to tell people, we gotta educate them. We gotta get the word out. Um, and then I personally, and I've only just started coming out with this hot sports opinion. But, um, I, I personally think that if you're not educating mommas and daddies early on when their babies are little about the danger that could happen when their babies are big, um, we're going to have a hard row to hoe it's, um, it's just like seatbelts, right? We grew up putting seat belts on and we don't give it a second thought now. And I know we, a lot of us community say that, but it's absolutely true. And for a long time, I pointed my era at teenagers. I'm not going to get a teenager. Speaker 1 00:32:36 If they've not worn a life jacket, the odds of me getting teenager right now to wear life jacket is very slim. But if I capture a young mom and dad, when they're learning all the things about how to keep their babies safe, you know, uh, whether it's poison control, whether it's loading a car seat, whether it's, you know, protecting your outlets in your house, you know, we've got to educate our young moms and dads that teaching a child how to swim is step one. There's many others follow. And then we got a model, two behavior. We got aware, we got to where the life jackets in front of them, because they will see us with our life jackets off. And they will think I can't wait to get to that point. Okay. So that's number one, education early education with parents. Um, you love your littles. You love your bigs, protect them, both. One of my partners in the spaces, Caitlin wages, and we live nearby each other, and she lost her four year old in a pool. She lost her baby. Uh, my baby was 15 analyte. They were both our babies and, uh, you know, littles and bigs and beyond is really where we have to migrate the water safety message. And then secondly, yes, we have a product problem. We have a product problem. And the, uh, and, and this is a hot sports opinion. Speaker 1 00:34:05 The UL testing to get a life jacket, us coast guard approved is rigorous, and it takes years, which is why have a better mouse trap right now. And we hear the language all the time, use a us coast guard, approved life jacket. Not that that's ever a bad idea. That's always a good idea, but I'll tell you what a simple buoyancy aid might've saved my son's life that day. If he had just had something he could fool that would pull him to the surface, a balloon, anything that would give him the opportunity to be seen and rescue because in a lake, and really frankly, in any body of water, if there's trouble, you're not talking about rescue almost a hundred percent of the time you're talking about recovery recovery and Connor was a good swimmer. He was incredibly comfortable in open water. He likely knew what was happening. Speaker 1 00:35:08 Um, and if he had been ingrained to say, okay, I'm going to pull this risk, or I'm going to, I'm going to pull this wristband, or I'm going to, uh, have, uh, maybe a swimsuit that has a flotation aid in it. So he would automatically be more buoyant than he was. I laughed. This is always a good idea, but what we have in our country is Fort Knox and then nothing. Yeah, it's our layers. We have, you got to wear a big fat life jacket, not all of them, the big in debt, but like you have to wear a life jacket or you have nothing. And I have, I'm challenging the life jacket manufacturers out there. First of all, you can make a crap ton of money. And then secondly, you're going to save a lot of lives. If we can figure out how to bridge the gap between Fort Knox and a nice safety dance, you know, Speaker 2 00:35:59 Do 100%, there are some other, like, I hate to say this, but cuter looking some of the water ski jackets, but they're not coast guard approved, but they are something that, uh, you know, an appearance conscious teenager or college kid might wear, you know? And so that is, you know, that's always been sort of my philosophy to Dana have sort of meet people where they are like, don't judge them for not being there, meet them where they are, like deal with your actual reality. And then what you were saying to, um, uh, was, you know, about, is building a better mouse trap. You know, I lost my train of thought, but there was something else in there where, um, you were talking about, I'll get back to it. But, um, yes, I'm with you on the life there. Well, I mean, Speaker 1 00:36:45 Heck I started the LV project and it's live love life vest. You know, we're in the buoyancy business. So believe me, I'm not saying, you know, diminish the importance of wearing a life vest. You have to wear a life. Do you have to wear, you'd have to wear a life vest right now. That's what we've got. That's what you have to wear. And you have to wear it while you're swimming on the shorelines. Because you know, every time I put a pie chart in front of people, I have a thing called the X effect. And it is, um, it measures drowning deaths from ages zero to 17 in pools and an open bodies of water. And you guys have seen this before, but it's, it was just such an honor. When I plotted this out in Excel, um, you, if you look at the rate of deaths for kids ages one to four, it's very high, right? Speaker 1 00:37:35 It goes very high. And then it, as I get age out to 17, it starts going down. Okay, well, oppositely, is that a word oppositely, quite the opposite. Um, you analyze, uh, deaths in open bodies of water for kids one to four to 17, and the, the line goes like this. So when you look at it, it's like, uh, and so it's high in likes at the teenage years. It's high in pools at the younger years. Not of course there are always exceptions. You know, the same rules apply, learn to swim, multiple barriers, wear a life jacket, but that's the reality of our, our data in the country. And I, it always surprises people when I, when I have this pie chart that shows, you know, percentages deaths in pools, deaths in boats, boating fatalities, and deaths, just swimming in natural water. And I, I, before I, before I put the pie chart up, I will ask my audience. You know, if I had asked you where the most number of fatalities are, pools voting or open bodies of water, just swimming, guess what? The number one answer is Speaker 2 00:38:50 Pools. They would say, Speaker 1 00:38:53 Yes, they always answer pools. And I say, okay, what do you think is number two? And then say boats and seven out of 10 deaths are in open water swimming. And so it just shocks people. So they just don't know. And once they know that it does sort of move the needle for like, oh my gosh, you know, I need to be, I need to, I'm getting people to think about it, right? Like I've sort of, kind of, I remembered Speaker 2 00:39:25 What I was going to say. That was in relation to what you said earlier and rounds, what you're saying out, which was when I spoke with chief Watson about Clay's accident later, because it was in a pool, but we happened to be at the beach and on the Delaware shore, you have the ocean on one side, then there's like a road and then there's the bay. Okay. So it's like a lake on one side and then the surf is on the other. And I said to him, I thought to myself, well, if this were to happen, this would be the best place because you guys have this experience. And he said, no, we don't have experience in this. He goes, we have experienced in spinal cord injuries and recovering dead bodies. That's what we have experienced in, you know, when it comes to this area. And it was exactly what you were saying, you know, that it's, you're not thinking about, you know, your, he was saying, no, we don't hardly ever have this opportunity to be in rescue. You know? And, and it's such an important point that you're making about this when you're talking about the open water that, you know, w being diligent it's, it's, it's so critical, so critical. And I'm sorry, go ahead. Speaker 0 00:40:32 No, I though the one thing I was going to point out that I dawned on me while Dana was talking is, you know, a lot of my background stems from education, especially in the health and physical education world. And, you know, I, we, we spend a lot of time thinking about it. We've heard this, especially with young children and pools about how pediatricians really aren't talking about drowning when it's the leading cause of accidental death for children, one to four, you know, they're talking about, you know, helmet, safety and choking and all these different things, but drowning is often or water safety in general is often left off. You know, I agree with you, Dana. A lot of it has to start with the parents, but I also look at our schools and you know, where I, where I say this is, you know, I think about, you know, when I was in high school or, you know, school experience, I've been in sense where, you know, you think before prom, you know, they come in and they do, you know, they, they kind of show you if you drink and drive in, this is this, this, you know, you choose to make this accident. Speaker 0 00:41:29 Your action here is what the consequences potentially are that doesn't exist for water safety, especially for these teenage boys going to lake fronts. And, you know, I want to say kind of shame on us as educators, because this is critical information that I, and, you know, I know it's not a perfect silver bullet solution because there, you know, that's the thing I've been saying to people, there is no silver bullet solution to this problem. There are so many different variables that we're constantly fighting against, but I, you know, we often hear the thing. I didn't know. You know, we, we hear that from pretty much every family and families. I guarantee you, if I take a call from a new family member, you know, this week, next week, sometime this summer, the number one thing I'm going to hear from that parent is, I didn't know, but I would argue a lot of teenagers don't know what that risk is. Don't know how likely it is to occur. And, you know, I guess, how do we prevent it if they're not even educated? What the risk is? Speaker 1 00:42:28 Right. So two things on that, I, I'm very proud of my home state in that. Um, Texas has a program where every kid who goes through a driver's education classes, which is pretty much a quarter million kids in Texas every year, um, there's a 10 minute water safety insert in that curriculum. And they, the Texas parks and wildlife was very smart in terms of how they handled it. They didn't talk to me. They talked to Connor's friends who were with him when he died. So it's a peer to peer sort of presentation. It's my story, plus a few others. And that's a great piece. So do we have access to that? Speaker 2 00:43:12 Can we have any access to that or no? Okay. Cause like, we'll make sure to put that in our links for this podcast, so people can try to mimic something or do something similar in their area. Like that's a, you know, Adam, hold your thought that, you know, for people who are listening, that's really the basis of families and prevent drowning. And NDPA is we do not believe in recreating the wheel because we don't have time to recreate the wheel. People are dying too fast and too quick, but we have people that have done this in other states and other areas. And we believe in sharing this knowledge and information, so people can go and create it for their state and their area. And we are all here to help if anybody's listening and says, oh my God, I'm on my local school board or I'm here. Yes, we are here. We've been through it before somebody has done it somewhere in our group of people. And that would be critical to start putting out across the thing, Adam, I'm sorry, go ahead. Speaker 0 00:44:05 Well, no, I was just going to jump in and say, you know, me being the research nerd that I am, I mean, what you just said, Dana, where they interviewed Connor's friends that were there that day. That is how you get through two teenage males, you know, cause the limited research that we have on how, um, students actually internalize and build their water safety belief structure. And you know, this w you know, one study was done in Australia, you know, years ago, but it showed that, you know, female students were likely looking towards, you know, mentors towards teachers, moms, and dads, uh, public officials for their safety information. And I'm sure you could exactly guess what the results showed for teenage males. They were looking at their peers for that safety accommodation. So that's, Speaker 2 00:44:50 And I could Dana and I could probably back it up that it never stops. Okay. Your husband's continued to look to their friends for information way that Speaker 1 00:45:05 That's so true. Um, the other point I wanna make about this, cause it's such a fine line, right? Um, yes, we have to target teenage boys, but I gotta tell you, um, the number of people who would imply that my boy did something wrong that day. Oh boy, it was overwhelming. And so yes, we have to educate them. But I got to tell you a 15 year old is still is still a child. His brain is fully developed, but culturally, as parents, we think, well, I've taught them how to swim. So, and they could probably beat me up in a bar fight because they're so big and strong, no, 15 year old. And, um, as parents, as caregivers, we have responsibility for our children, the finger points to me, and to that couple who was responsible for my son that day. Um, did Connor bear responsibility? Speaker 1 00:46:06 No, not one bit because he's 15. It's not his job. It's our job as parents to see around the corners and know what they don't know now, eventually I hope we can get to the point where that's a mindset like, well, God, why didn't he buckle a seatbelt? Why didn't he put his life vest on? I hope we can get to the point where that's an equivalency, but not right now. And, um, uh, you know, the, the, you know, just like we wouldn't put our kid in a car without having, you know, driving lessons or we wouldn't put them on the slopes now without a helmet, which was not a thing until recently, you know, we have to protect them from themselves. And so it really burns me up when I get people who blame my son for his own dads. Um, you know, Speaker 2 00:46:58 One of the, go ahead. No, no, no, go ahead. One of the things that I noticed and that I said to people after this accident happened with clay and why I think that parents do this is, I said, you know, when you have something like this happen, you know, as parents, we have to walk around with a certain degree of denial, otherwise we would never let our child outside of our home, even though inside the home there's dangers lurking. So there's a part of us that has to have this state denial that is around. So we can function every day when something like this happens to your child that is burst, you're walking around raw and open and living in the constant state of reality that accidents happen. And you know, this, you know, and so I think what happens to people is if they have not been through an incident like this, they still are walking around with that denial. And they literally have to believe that there's something or someone to blame because they don't really have the ability or the capability to live, where we live, you know, in that state of reality of accidents. Um, you know, and so that's what I really attribute a lot of people in the way when they are doing that. It's almost as though they don't have the ability to look at it any other way, or they would be emotionally paralyzed with their own children. You know, that is really the way that I've seen. Speaker 1 00:48:25 And I have, you know, it is very true, Laura, you know, it could have happened on my watch. It could have happened when my boys were tiny, you know, because I didn't know what I didn't know about pools at that point. You know? Um, I didn't know, I needed high door locks and multiple barriers and a pool fence. And, you know, I didn't know I needed to teach them how to float. I taught them how to swim, not have a float. I mean, I dodged a bullet for a very long time. Um, and, but I can't Dodge this bullet. It was my job to make sure my son would say, and I, I failed. And you know, it doesn't matter. There's no placating that there's no sugarcoating it. I failed my son. And did I, did I know? No, I didn't know. But you know, you asked me early on why I got into this because I want to make the unknowns known and I just don't believe there's enough light shed on this open water drowning problem, this teenage drowning problem. Um, there's just not enough light shed on the facts and I'm a tiny little voice in a very big country. Um, and just, you know, but I will not stop shouting. I'll be shouting die. So I got Speaker 0 00:49:47 To say Dana though, if it wasn't for people like you, you know, we mentioned earlier, um, you know, the small number of families that choose to get into this work after experienced such and such a loss. I mean, if you just look at the statistics, I mean, 3,500 families a year, fatal drownings, then we talk about the non fatals and where, you know, uh, Laura is representing clay. I mean, this touches thousands upon thousands of families each year, just in our own country. And the, you know, we look at families United and, you know, we all talk that, you know, how families United has unfortunately grown over the years with more and more families being added, but it's still such a small, small to get involved, you know, and I say it all the time. I could talk water safety for hours. I could go in and talk to parents and say the same things you could, but your message hits home because you can say it happened to me. It can happen to you. And if it wasn't for people like you, who are willing to share your story, share your experience and get people to listen, we wouldn't be moving that needle. So thank you for getting involved and thank you for being such a powerful voice. You're not a small voice. Speaker 1 00:50:59 Well, thank you that, um, you know, if it will Dana Speaker 2 00:51:03 To tell you too, if it weren't for Dana, Dana was the person that was able to put the face and you know, really two families United with the booklet and you came in with your professional background experience. And that was really the, the T the tipping point for families United. So, you know, again, yeah, I agree with Adam. It was, it's far from a small voice far from a small, Speaker 1 00:51:29 Thank you, Speaker 0 00:51:30 Dana. We're going to, um, I have two questions. I ask every podcast guests, we're going to get to those questions, but I do have to say real quickly, just as we wind down, this is such an important topic right now, because one of the things that I've been saying about COVID, and I know there are some people that are maybe disagreeing with me just cause we don't have the data right now, but that's the thing. We don't have the data and COVID changed the way we recreate. Um, there's already some studies that have shown that is people, you know, when gyms got shut down and they couldn't do their typical recreation routine, um, they started turning towards new outlets. You know, whether that be in their house or in nature or in open water settings. And what's scary is a lot of that initial research asked people are, you know, once COVID is over, it's a thing of the past. Speaker 0 00:52:18 Are you going to go back to recreating the way you did pre COVID? And by and large, that answer was no people are, you know, continuing to recreate in these new ways. And what is even more scary to me right now is we are seeing, and we've had a lifeguard shortage in the country for a long time, but I don't know of one single area in the country that isn't touched right now by a massive lifeguard shortage. And when you have community pools that can open, you know, we are talking about everyone heading towards open water activities and, you know, what's scary to me is, um, you know, and I'm just gonna to, I love my home state of Pennsylvania, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, I should say. Um, but one of the things that drives me absolutely nuts about, uh, the Commonwealth is they removed lifeguards from our state beaches. Speaker 0 00:53:06 Um, over a decade ago, I think it was back in 2008 and it was a budget cut maneuver, but you know, here's, here's where I look at. This is if you have a family who wants to go to, you know, an, you know, to a water setting, whatever it is during the summer, it's hot, it's muggy, it's, you know, a hundred percent humidity, 90 degrees, and you can't afford to take your family to the community pole. You're going to go to the state beaches because they're free. And those beaches aren't life garden, they're murky water, it's colder water. People don't necessarily know what they're expecting. On the other side, you have a low head dam at some places, and it's a recipe for disaster. I'm actually shocked. We haven't seen more drownings. We have seen drownings in our state lakes since lifeguards were removed. But you know, my point to this is, as people continue to go out to these outdoor settings, they may not have the education, the training, understanding the statistics, understanding the prevention steps, and I'm fearful for the first time in a long time, we're going to see these statistics. We've kept them almost steady in a way. And I think that actually is a good thing because, you know, granted, our numbers have been dropping where we all want them to be, but they're not substantially increasing every year. And I hope I'm wrong, but I'm very fearful. We're going to see a substantial increase, um, as a result of COVID and some of the other factors that are still affecting the entire aquatics arena. Um, so Speaker 1 00:54:31 W boat sales are up, uh, 13% year over year. Uh, boating fatalities are up 20% year over year. That's a measurable number and let's face it going to the lake is a fun slash inexpensive way to enjoy the people you love or going to a beach as well. Um, so open-water recreating is going to continue to increase and, you know, therefore the message for swimmers, buoyancy aids has never been more important, important the need for life S has never been more important and people just, uh, you know, we're not there yet. And I think we're going to have to continue to just tell the story, um, tell it, you know, classroom by classroom conference, by conference, you know, audience by audience until we hit a critical mass. I'm already starting to see meaningful change in my circle in north Texas. Um, you know, I have a lot of people who reach out to me and say, I'm wearing my life jacket because I'm, I'm, I'm thinking about Connor. Speaker 1 00:55:44 And one of Connor's best friends is Shane blue shell. And he was quarterback at UT and then went on to SMU. And now he's with the Kansas city chiefs and, you know, Dallas morning news, um, interviewed him a few years ago and, and I really respected the way Shane handled it. He said, I'm thinking about it now. Like that was such a, he said, I think about it when I go to the lake, I think about it. And you know, that matters thinking about it leads to doing something about it leads to changing it. Well, Speaker 0 00:56:18 That's, that's, that's super, super critical. Um, you know, and, and seeing that, that act, that, that change just that thought is actually happening is just so incredible. So I know we're running out of time, Dana, so I want to get to these last two questions. So, um, I'm going to give you one question at a time. Um, so this one's a little bit fun. You can do whatever you want with this question. Um, what is one thing that our audience probably doesn't know about you, but you would want them to know about you? That was the best reaction I've ever gotten to that question? Speaker 1 00:56:53 Well, I know one thing, oh, God, I know her first car. I know her first car. She had a lot, um, I was the brand champion, um, cheap show or at the 1980 county livestock show has that. So cool. My head to clear thinking my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service and my health to better living for each girl. Speaker 0 00:57:30 Yeah, that's awesome. I don't like that. Um, and our last question, and again, you can do whatever you would like with this one. So in theory, I'm going to give you a magic wand and you could change one thing about water safety or drowning prevention. What would that one thing be that you would use that magic wand for? Speaker 1 00:57:49 It would be the teenage teenage kids were live jackets when they're recreating and lake. I mean, honestly it would be there like this on lights become like seatbelts in cars. I'm must. Yeah. I Speaker 0 00:58:01 Love it. I love it. Well, Dana, thank you for joining us. Um, I, you know, I, I really have to say this, Dana. I mean, I know, you know, Blake was just on here, um, uh, on our last episode and, um, we actually interviewed him on the day that Joshua would have drowned the, the anniversary and, um, you know, to hear him share that story. I mean, for, for all of you and families United, who I often say, I have to relive the worst day of your lives constantly because you're sharing this message. Thank you. From the bottom of our hearts, who, you know, do this work, who haven't lost a child, because if it wasn't for you, um, it would make this work so much harder. And, um, just to see your passion, I mean, I'm often asked, you know, this is hard work for all of us. Um, it's heavy work. Um, but what drives me as I keep my, um, I'm gonna knock stuff off my desk here, but I keep these right at my desk. Um, because if you guys can do it, we can do it. So thank you for your drive. Speaker 1 00:59:01 Thank you. It's hard work, but it's hard work and that's why we're doing it. Yep. Speaker 2 00:59:07 Thanks for those listening. Adam who said these, he meant the families United do your vent, Joan and cards. Speaker 0 00:59:15 I got to get used to this whole, like audio only thing. I mean, some of you are watching us on video, but you know, there could be many more of you watching us with just, or listening to us, you know, watching, watching the road if you're driving or something like that. Um, so, well, Dana, thank you again. Speaker 1 00:59:31 Cool. Thanks for, I I'm excited. Like we're getting all official and you guys are dragging us in to the digital age here, Speaker 2 00:59:41 And we're going to have some more of that with like, with, you know, as we go along sort of adding clubhouse into the mix of having live discussions about different podcasts and different things. So I think we'll probably do, um, one of those again, um, this summer, for sure. Cause you know, like we said, recreating life vests and open water is so critical. And even once, you know, once August comes, it's kind of a lot of back to school messaging, but we all know that that's when everybody's taking their vacations to the lake, to the waters. So that could be a good time for us to have some of those conversations too. So keep us right. Speaker 0 01:00:13 Awesome. Well, thank you for joining us today. Dana take care. Um, it was as always, it's always great to talk to you. I'm sure I'll talk to you four other times this week Speaker 1 01:00:21 Looking forward to it guys. Thank you guys for all. You're doing so. Yeah. Speaker 0 01:00:26 All right, Laura, I got to say what a great interview. I'm kind of like just my mind's going a million different directions. Um, I love Dana's energy that she brings to everything. Um, and, and you know, I know it's so hard to share that story, but I mean, I'm almost tearing up and I've heard, um, you know, uh, the, the story around Condors accident numerous times, but it's something that, again, it's sharing these stories is what gets people to listen. Speaker 2 01:00:54 Yeah. And I think what's important too, is, you know, one of the things that we found so powerful, um, when we started to get together, all these families was the differences in everyone's story. And you know, a lot of people do think about drowning and they think about little kids. Well then we started meeting a lot of people that had older kids. This was happening too, right? Like Dana. And so that's where we're taking this across the spectrum. And I think again, and I think this is an important message that we should do. Um, every time we talk is understanding that these are not a bunch of people that are running around like lunatics, you know, trying to ruin everybody's good time. That is not what's going on. Most of us in this space, love water. Blake talked about it last week, you know, that he didn't move from his home. Speaker 2 01:01:41 You know, even though that's where the incident happened with Joshua said, I live in a golf course, how many water features are there? Or, you know, so most of us love water. Uh, we just understand the power and we are driven to make sure that no other parent either experiences what we did or has to say to themselves. I didn't know. Um, and you know, that it really, we're just, we just want people to understand the tips, tools and tricks to enjoy water safely. That's it, you know, we don't want to bring everybody's good time down, you know, but it is important to hear yeah. That story and understand like, yes, we got to, we got to tell you the hard stories sometimes and you need to listen to them, but we're not trying to scare you to death. We just do need to kind of get your attention and then share these honestly quick and easy things. Really usually that will, will make the difference between life and death. Speaker 0 01:02:38 That's it? Yeah. I couldn't have put it better myself. So I know we are way over time on this podcast. Cause that was such a great discussion, but sometimes you know it well with you and me, it's going to happen all the time. So, uh, well thank you everyone for tuning in and listening and we'll be back with you with episode six of the new NDPA water safety podcast next week. Have a great week. Everyone have a good one guys.

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