TDHS Quarterly Summer 2021 2022 Loris Day

Loris unlocks drowning tragedy to help others | TDHS Summer Quarterly

Jessica Day was an adventurous toddler. She had an inquisitive mind, she loved to explore and, when she wanted to be, she was as quick as a flash.
Her tragic drowning on the family farm near Port Campbell in 1992, when she was just 20 months old, is something her mother Loris has locked away for her own private moments.
Three years earlier, Loris and her late husband Rob, had lost another daughter, Leah, to childhood cancer. Leah was 13 when she died and the arrival of baby Jessica brought great love and joy into Loris and Rob’s lives – and those of big sisters Christie and Melanie (then 15 and 17).
Loris decided to share her story in our Summer Quarterly to help raise awareness of water safety this Summer – particularly childhood drowning.  Tomorrow, the first day of Summer, has been declared National Water Safety Day.

 


 

Loris loves the colour purple.

She wears it most days and finds comfort and reflection in purple flowers like the roses in the TDHS garden.

Jessica was born at TDHS and less than two years later that joy turned to heartache when the 20-month- old was pronounced dead on arrival after venturing into the family’s dam.

“We had a big pavement area at home and I was out sweeping it and Jessica had come out with me. She was an adventurer – more so than most toddlers,” Loris said.

“Jessica had gone to the back of the house. The gates were closed, but they weren’t the type you couldn’t crawl under if you wanted to. That was the last time I ever saw her.

 
“We had a cyclone fence around the house because we had chickens wandering around. It is my suspicion she went under to follow a chook.

“There was a dam reasonably close to the house. It was also surrounded by a cyclone fence and gate…it was one of those things you never expected could happen.

“It did happen and you have to live with it. It’s like any tragedy that happens to anybody, you have to get on with life, but the tragedy never leaves you.”

Loris said Rob was away at the family’s out paddock at the time and everything happened so quickly. She said panic set in just as quickly and she soon feared the worst.

“She disappeared on me in seconds. I couldn’t think clearly but managed to ring our neighbour and another family friend who lived up the road,” she said.

“I searched everywhere until they arrived. I couldn’t find her. I ran up to the dairy, but she wasn’t there. There was a big dam there too and water troughs, but she was nowhere.

“The neighbour arrived and must have gone to the dam closest to the house and he found her, but she was gone by that stage.

“Another neighbour who was in the surf club knew how to administer CPR. He worked on her until we got to the hospital, but she was dead on arrival.”

Loris said the next two weeks were a blur as the shock and devastation took hold of the family and the tightknit community.

“It was a short life, but Jessica brought a lot of love into our family. Christie was 15 and adored Jessica…she was like her mum and spent so much time with her.

“It was incredibly difficult. I think a tragic accident like that causes emotion in a whole community.

 
“I just sat in a chair for two weeks. I don’t remember much…people looked after me. People were beautiful and kind.

“They would drop in all the time, but after a while I couldn’t deal with that. I couldn’t see people for a while.”

Loris said the family knew their lives would never be the same. She said losing two daughters was unimaginable and coping was, at times, too hard.

“When people go through grief…I think men and women experience it very differently. My husband was a quiet and private man – his wall went up.

“We managed to keep our marriage together, but when you lose a child it stretches marriages as much as they can be stretched and we went through that twice.”

Loris said as painful as it was for her to unlock Jessica’s story nearly 30 years later, she hoped her story could help other parents understand how quickly their lives could be turned upside down.

“It’s such as sudden thing. When you lose a child they never go out of your mind. You carry it in your heart, but you lock it away…that’s how I have coped,” she said.

“The main thing I would say to parents who live on properties is that where there are dangers like dams, troughs, waterholes or pools…they have to be impenetrable, because toddlers like Jessica…if they can get in, they will.”

 


 

FARM WATER SAFETY

Farms contain many drowning hazards. While dams are the most common location for child drowning deaths, troughs, irrigation channels, water tanks, swimming pools, and even rivers and lakes, pose an equally significant risk to children. Easy access to water and a lack of direct adult supervision by parents or carers are the main factors in child drowning deaths on farms.

While it is not always feasible to fence off large water bodies, there are some simple measures that can make the farm environment as safe as possible.

  • Active supervision should be a priority at all farm locations and children must be supervised at all times in, on, or around water on farms.
  • Child safe play areas can help parents to supervise children but they are not designed to replace active supervision. Child safe play areas restrict a child’s access to water by creating a barrier between the child and a drowning hazard. They are particularly effective in preventing a young child from gaining access to water which cannot be fenced, such as dams on farms. A Keep Watch@The Farm ‘Please Close the Gate’ sign should be placed on the child safe play area to remind people to close the gate. The gate should be self-closing and self-latching and never be propped open.
  • Fill in any unused holes where water can gather such as ditches, dips and postholes. Water storage such as wells and tanks should be securely covered.

Royal Life Saving’s Keep Watch@The Farm initiative is aimed at preventing children aged 0 to 4 years from drowning by getting parents and carers to undertake four simple Keep Watch actions: Supervise, Restrict, Teach and Respond. Email info@rlssa.org.au to get a free Keep Watch@The Farm ‘Please Close the Gate’ sign for your child safe play area. For more information visit https://www.royallifesaving.com.au/stay-safe-active/locations/farm-water-safety

Grief and Loss: Where to go for support.

There are numerous support options available to you if you need to speak to someone about your experience of grief and loss.

Below are some of the places to go for information and support:

  • Contact Lifeline: 13 11 14 (available 24/7) or chat to a Crisis Supporter online at lifeline.org.au every night.
  • Mensline Australia: 1300 78 99 78 (24hrs)
  • Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800
  • Beyondblue: 1300 22 46 36

You may also consider contacting our social worker Hayley on 5558 6000 or to make an appointment with one of our General Practitioners at our Timboon Clinic by calling 5558 6088.

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