I hadn't planned on watching Showtime's "The Affair". I find the subject matter too sad. I have no stomach for cheaters and frankly don't think there is any excuse good enough to justify the action. But somehow, I got sucked in. And I'm glad I did.
The acting is great. The story is interesting. And as it continues to develop, there's sure to be a few more twists. But that's not why we're here.
I'm writing this because of what we found out in Episode 9 that originally aired on December 14. (SPOILER ALERT: If you haven't seen it but plan to do so, you may wish to stop reading now though in the grand scheme of things, it's not the biggest reveal.) It is the week we discover how Alison Lockhart's 4-year-old son, Gabriel, died: secondary drowning.
I must say, I was shocked at this. But in a good way. This past summer, the term "secondary drowning" popped up all over social media and news outlets. In fact, a quick Google Newssearch returns a high volume of articles, most of which were published in the late spring/early summer months. Of course this is the time when many news agencies report on drowning. But last year more than ever the term appeared. Despite the higher volume of articles found online about the little-known issue, there is still much to be learned and shared about the threats of secondary drowning. So for it to be used as a cause of death is impressive.
Each week rating rise for "The Affair." On average, nearly 4 million viewers a week are tuning in to the show. That's nearly 4 million who are exposed to secondary drowning. So how did the show do in presenting the information? Mostly it did well. We learn some basic facts about secondary drowning. For one, it happens hours after being in the water. And we learn that a child who exhibits serious and/or uncharacteristic fatigue after swimming may be at risk. And most important, we are told to take the victim to the hospital if they exhibit this behavior after being in the water.
These all are excellent points worth noting. However, we also learn that "It's not your fault." In a sense this is true. The mom, Alison (who happens to be a former nurse) didn't think much of her son's odd behavior and didn't take action. As a result, her son dies and she continues to beat herself up over it, blaming herself for his death. She takes the death hard, as any mom would, and seeks therapy to deal with her guilt. This is where she learns not be take the blame.
But if it's not her fault, then whose fault is it? In a way, it's not anyone's fault. I think we all do a pretty great job of spreading the message of drowning prevention and water safety. From our award-winning publication to the many advocacy groups out there, we are playing our parts in an exceptional way. Obviously we're doing something right otherwise the writers of The Affair wouldn't even think to include it in their series. But we always can do more. We all have a responsibility to talk about and educate the public as much as possible. Whether its traditional drowning, dry drowning or secondary drowning, it is important for us to educate parents, teachers, coaches and anyone who could stop an unspeakable tragedy.
I applaud the writers and Showtime for putting secondary drowning into the spotlight. And I applaud those who have put their energies into helping to prevent drowning of any kind. Let's all keep up the good work as we start 2015 and continue to make secondary drowning, and water safety in general, a common household topic that won't take me or other viewers by surprise the next time it's featured in film, on TV or in print.