You’re Conscious When You Breathe in Water
An excerpt from Sebastian Junger’s The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea:
” The impulse not to breathe underwater is so strong that it conquers the pain of lacking air. No matter how desperate the drowning person is, he doesn’t inhale until he’s on the verge of passing out. At that point there’s so much co2 in the blood, and so little oxygen, that chemical sensors in the brain activate an uncontrolled breath whether he’s underwater or not. That is called the ‘break point.’ Lab experiments have shown the break point to follow 87 seconds. It’s sort of a neurological optimism, as if the body were stating, Holding our breath is eliminating us, and breathing in might not kill us, so we might too take in.
When the very first involuntary breath takes place the majority of people are still conscious, which is unfortunate, because the only thing more unpleasant than lacking air is breathing in water. At this point the individual goes from voluntary to involuntary apnea, and the drowning begins in earnest. A spasmodic breath drags water into the mouth and windpipe, and then one of 2 things happens. In about ten percent of individuals, water– anything– touching the vocal cables sets off an instant contraction in the muscles around the larynx. In result, the main nervous system judges something in the voice box to be more of a threat than low oxygen levels in the blood, and acts appropriately. This is called laryngospasm. It’s so powerful that it conquers the breathing reflex and eventually suffocates the person. An individual with laryngospasm drowns with no water in his lungs.
In the other ninety percent of people, water floods the lungs and ends any subsiding transfer of oxygen to the blood. The clock is diminishing now; half-conscious and enfeebled by oxygen deficiency, the individual remains in no position to combat his method back up to the surface area. The very procedure of drowning makes it harder and harder not to drown, a rapid disaster curve comparable to that of a sinking boat.”
Christopher Hitchens on what it feels like to be waterboarded:
” You may have read by now the main lie about this treatment, which is that it ‘replicates’ the sensation of drowning. This is not the case. You feel that you are drowning since you are drowning– or, rather, being drowned, albeit slowly and under regulated conditions and at the mercy (or otherwise) of those who are using the pressure. The ‘board’ is the instrument, not the technique. You are not being boarded. You are being watered …
In this pregnant darkness, head downward, I waited on a while until I quickly felt a sluggish cascade of water increasing my nose. Determined to resist if just for the honor of my navy ancestors who had so often been in danger on the sea, I held my breath for a while and after that had to exhale and– as you may expect– inhale in turn. The inhalation brought the moist cloths tight against my nostrils, as if a big, damp paw had actually been unexpectedly and annihilatingly clamped over my face. Unable to determine whether I was taking in or out, and flooded more with large panic than with mere water, I set off the pre-arranged signal and felt the unbelievable relief of being pulled upright and having the soaking and stifling layers pulled off me. I find I do not want to tell you how little time I lasted.”
It Burns Like Hot Lava
” I nearly drowned 3 years back. Out in the sea, swimming, then oh crap I could not move a single muscle in my body. I utilized my last breath not really carefully as I just yelled mindlessly as I sank slowly. I was panicking, I was out of control, I attempted to wave my arms and my legs furiously but I was solidified, like a statue. I was still breathing pretty quick while I was sinking so I got some water in my lungs. Which appeared like an eternity to me, I was undersea and though typically I can’t open my eyes in seawater, I could see the sea and the colors yet as I desperately tried to breathe, I had a growing number of water swallowed.
I should’ve lost consciousness for I don’t remember my pal and father pulling me up. I remember it burned like lava, the lungs and my stomach( they kept burning for a long period of time, I hardly breathed for a week) and I keep in mind vomiting a lot while being carried, but absolutely nothing else. It was basically a near-death experience, sufficed to piss my shorts. How did it feel is, once again, I can’t give a clear answer, for it was taking place right there and I was too hectic attempting to conserve myself than taking the moment, so to state. I felt desperate and I kept grasping for air like an infant however hi, still not as detailed as one might want from a thread like this.”
It’s Either Peaceful or Brutal
” I have actually nearly drowned at least once. Depending on the person, it’s either peaceful if you accept the truth that you’re most likely gon na pass away (which I did) or it’s ruthless as you have a hard time.
I actually understood that I was going to drown so I breathed the water in on function to simply get it over with. It only hurt when I was coughing it up.”
Everything Goes Black
” Drowning is one experience that I can not explain, and I don’t think descriptions suffice if you want to know how it feels. All I remember is this.
I was on top of an inflatable tube (like a raft shape) and was wading my way into the middle while no one was looking. All of a sudden, I do not understand how it occurred, however the next minute I knew, I was drowning. The only things I keep in mind noticeably are that I was not able to breathe, because water was entering my nose and mouth quickly, and consequently my lungs. Even as a child, I knew, that I needed to stay above water, to be able to breathe once again. And I was flailing my hands to remain above water, hoping I might bring my face above the surface, but I wasn’t very successful at it. I began going down and didn’t have any more ideas.
There was no ‘I should push my feet on the bottom and attempt to come up,’ or ‘The color of the water is so blue.’ I just blacked out. I do not remember anything from this indicate the point where the lifeguards were trying to get the water out of my lungs, and I choked it out. My parents were quite terrified, I didn’t process the important things as too major at that time, I don’t understand why.”
No Pain, Just Convenience
An accident during “ underwater walking” in Thailand:
” I don’t know whether it’s because I’m naturally fidgety, or due to the fact that my rotten luck and the unstable seawater simultaneously conspired versus me, but my helmet somehow got tilted backwards and a few of the water can be found in, into my mouth and nostrils. I panicked and began thrashing my body, and the helmet came off totally.
The very first 3 seconds were as follows: My body began to float upwards. My mouth was open, and my throat totally contracted. My body was deformed in an awkward posture; my upper body was arched forward, my limbs were streaming backwards, and my eyes were looking directly, although I couldn’t register anything I was seeing. I heard my sister (who was next to me in the chain) scream my name through her helmet.
After the three seconds passed, I started to desperately flail my limbs, and my head had 2 simultaneous, continuous thoughts:
- breathe out really, really percentages of air
- go straight upwards
My mouth was open, and I was letting out discreet, small quantities of air through my esophagus, trying to buy as much time as I could prior to I ran out of air. I might feel my flailing gradually take my body upwards. I had to survive. I needed to in some way reach the surface area and endure. I didn’t want to die.
More seconds expired. I was lacking air. I attempted to appreciate see sunshine, but I saw none. It dawned on me that I wouldn’t make it. I discharge another breath of air, this one more generous than the others. My body went limp, my mind went blank and I gave up on all effort. I just let go, and my drooping body just drifted in the water for a few seconds. My lungs had more or less given out, and there was no pain, just comfort.
A few more seconds later, for some relatively mysterious reason (or so it seemed in the minute), I suddenly had a big burst of energy, and the will to leave the predicament reappeared, and so did the desperate flailing. This time was different, I might feel myself going up quicker and with more force. Possibly I could make it. Perhaps I would make it.
I made it to the surface area, and then it hit me that this sudden rise of energy was due to the fact that one of the swimmers had actually lastly gotten to me. My oxygen-deprived mind was believing that I was increasing of my own accord. After taking in the much-needed lungful of air, a LOT of coughing ensued.”
” For me, I went through three unique phases, but the stage that lasted the longest was the sheer bloody panic phase.
I was at a water park with some friends and we were in a wave swimming pool. I was sitting in an inner tube when somebody (don’t understand who, but it wasn’t among my pals) flipped my inner tube over. I went undersea, however I wasn’t panicking because all I needed to do was kick approximately reach the surface area once again.
However right as I appeared, a wave struck me and knocked me back under. And for the next half a minute I remained in the most terrifying experience of my life. Each time I resurfaced, I was knocked back under by gradually bigger waves. I could not breathe, I had water entering through my nose and mouth, and my mind was going absolutely nuts: it was racing and I was not able to form meaningful thoughts however at the very same time it was continually telling me that I required to get to the surface. For how little time I was under the water, it felt like I had actually been going at it for an hour.
And After That, I had a moment of severe clearness. After being tore down once again the cacophony of my brain stopped and I all of a sudden recognized that if I didn’t attempt to resurface right after I was pulled below once again, that I would have the ability to resurface after the wave passed. However I waited too long and the greatest wave struck me, knocked me back under, and dragged my feet along the bottom of the swimming pool, scraping my feet pretty badly.
After that time I was finally able to resurface, primarily since the waves were reducing in size and the waves had actually pushed me to where I might stroll and I just went out of the swimming pool, albeit due to the reality that my feet were bleeding, and I was still disoriented and coughing up water, etc. I still have scars (well, more like red marks) on my feet where they scraped along the bottom of the swimming pool, which was an excellent 3 and a half, 4 years back.”
You Enter Into Complete Shock
” Very first time I drowned was at age 12 when I had no understanding of swimming. I was playing in the river with my daddy and other loved ones when all of a sudden the currents pulled me into the water. There were at least 10-12 loved ones of my own, each busy in their own world. I drank water two times and could not scream and my mind was definitely blank.
Out of no place, my cousin, who was on his bike on the banks, jumped into the water and pulled me to safety. My mind was tape-recording all those things however I couldn’t respond. Maybe I remained in overall shock and could not react or yell. What followed next was lots of suggestions from seniors and my granny telling ghost stories on how the river had taken [the] lives of many in the village.”
Everything Turns Yellow, Then Black, Then Pure White
” I went for a road trip with camping and rafting to spend the vacation with a group of 9 individuals. On Saturday, we were expected to do rafting. In the early morning we were cooling on the bank of The Ganges practically 4 feet in the water with red bulls, volley balls, clicking pictures and things when I felt the sand getting displaced listed below my feet. I asked my swimmer buddy to hold me tightly so I can return to the shore, he held me tightly and we began moving towards the coast when we felt the tide moving in reverse dragging us back in the water. There, we were 5 buddies at 4 feet depth and everybody stressed including me. And I’m 5’11” tall so I can inform you that being a non-swimmer I was playing it safe.
The tide was difficult, we lost the hold versus the water and I was dragged inside like a vacuum. I attempted to wave so everyone knows I’m drowning and they know my position and unfortunately nobody came. I kept having a hard time for 10-15 seconds, which I remember, then water began getting inside me as I lacked breath and unconsciously opened my mouth, leading to more water within, which’s when everything began turning yellow and everything faded. That’s what I was feeling, even now I remember that yellow sight that I had while drowning … And all of a sudden whatever turned black, sharp black. It didn’t alter from yellow to black in 4 or 6 seconds. In milliseconds, it just turned BLACK.
I stopped feeling anything and can’t remember after that, as if I wasn’t there or there was no presence. I simply never ever existed because moment. After a few seconds (I do not know the number of), everything turned pungent WHITE, ABSOLUTELY CLEAR COLOR, the most pure color that I can even think of. And I saw a figure who came closer to me and stated something with love and love (I still couldn’t find out what that was, attempted too tough to think of it numerous times). At this specific minute, I was feeling damn enjoyable, like everything is fine and I’m high perhaps. And that was precisely when I was dragged out of [the] water. And everyone was stating so many things and patting my back, pushing my stomach and chest to remove water from my lungs and stubborn belly.”
Pain Lets You Know You’re Still Alive
” This is what it feels like [to drown]:
1. Panic – this is the state where you do not understand what to do. For a person who never ever swam, the first thing that comes to your mind is whether you flail or flap your limbs anywhere to surface area (I understand, it sounds silly) or to inhale in very small amounts. You can not make a sound except for coughing.
2. [I don’t know] what it is called however your lungs all of a sudden quit working and [you have] an intense want to breathe oxygen. After about 10 seconds of being underwater, pain takes place. For me, this is the last opportunity of survival since discomfort tells your body to take action. And all of a sudden, adrenaline pertains to the rescue. My body then kicked from the water so greatly, it felt like I flew, and after that back in the shallow waters. Which moment I understood I was still alive due to the fact that you can’t feel pain when you’re dead. I started to [drink] lots of seawater and it felt agonizing. In some way, I was grateful that I was in pain.
3. Flashbacks – I saw my life flashing through my eyes in a very short minute. I recognized that I was still too young to embrace death. I [could not] leave my parents, my good friends, my studies, my memories and my life in this alien environment. I unexpectedly felt a lack of energy, I knew at that moment I might do nothing, I was not prepared to bid the world bye-bye. My back touched the seabed … All these things[made me angry] I [was] upset to leave the world without reaching my dreams.
And After That, my pals came to save me.”