Shannan Maher

Shannan, with the young boy who saved her life.

Shannan, with the young boy who saved her life.

On March 11th 2014, I stepped onto the pool deck ready for another grueling swim practice. My closest friend, Shannan Maher, got into a swim lane across the pool from me and we both started our warmup. We were just starting the main set of the evening when my friend decided to hide from the coaches’ view, and skip out on the set. She repeatedly jumped from the bottom of the pool taking a breath each time she came up to the surface, and eventually she stayed on the bottom of the pool. During this time, it is not known exactly when, she passed out due to never having the urge to breathe.

My younger brother, who was eleven years old and barely eighty pounds at the time, swam over her twice, believing she was playing and deliberately hiding. After about two minutes, he swam down to the bottom and tickled her feet trying to get her to swim up to the surface and continue the practice. When she did not respond to any type of stimuli, he grabbed her limp body and pulled her to the surface screaming for someone to help her. The coaches pulled her out of the water and on to the pool deck, where she laid lifeless and barely breathing on her own.  

My mom, who is a former nurse, immediately took control of the situation until paramedics arrived. Shannan always had a pulse and never stopped breathing; however she started having seizures due to the lack of oxygen to her brain. When the paramedics arrived, she was initially taken to Harrisburg Hospital ER, however they did they did not have the proper equipment for a pediatric near drowning. From there, she was transferred to the Penn State Hershey Pediatric Intensive Care Unit where she remained for four days, and eventually recovered.

Shannan has no memory of the incident. She has no lasting effects due to the oxygen deprivation, except for seizures which are partially controlled by medication. After the accident I conducted some research and found that what my friend had nearly lost her life to was Shallow Water Blackout. She was one of the lucky ones, we soon realized, as most people do not survive SWB.