How It Feels To Drown

Whistling terror
thirty seconds
Bombs explode
fire and smoke
rubble and dust
Makeshift shelters
scavenged from the wreckage

The houses are empty
more whistling terror
cower and cling
to whatever and whoever
still stands in the rubble
and dust

Pack whatever is left
there may be nothing but
fragmented family
and a handful of money
for the fare
for sharks at the water’s edge.

Water everywhere
Too many people on deck
and locked in holds

water everywhere
cower and cling
to a backpack or whoever
is at hand

water everywhere
up to the nose
no noise
no international distress signal

from those who have not drunk
water for days

No noise
only thirty seconds
and the pulse of heart
in the ear
changed to a hammer beat.

Author’s footnote

The usual sequence of events in a drowning are as follows:

Upon submersion, the victim holds his breath until forced to inhale. He gulps water. The water induces spasms of the larynx, which closes of the trachea to protect the lungs. Little water enters the lungs. With the trachea blocked by laryngospasms, no fresh air enters the lungs and the supply of oxygen begins to fail. Lack of Oxygen, anoxia, affects the brain within 30 seconds the laryngospasms begin to weaken with imminent brain failure.

The victim then inhales again, water aspirates into the lungs before a fresh spasm closes the trachea again but for a shorter duration. With each successive inhalation, more water is aspirated; anoxia increases, and laryngospasm duration decreases until they cease and the lungs are filled with water. In salt water the drowning process takes 8-10 minutes and the heart almost explodes under the strain.

From: Biology of Drowning.


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