Legacy of 12yo Jack is saving lives

Wednesday will be the first Christmas at the MacMillan family's Cordeaux Heights home without 12-year-old Jack, who died in the backyard pool earlier this year.

"We wish that Jack was here this Christmas," said his aunt Sharon Washbourne, "but unfortunately through what has happened to him, he is the one that's saving lives from something that he didn't know existed.

"He's helping other people survive."

Jack died while swimming underwater laps of the pool on January 29, suffering what is known as shallow water blackout.

This is where the body is deprived of oxygen and lower than normal carbon dioxide levels fail to trigger the urge to breathe, resulting in unconsciousness.

Mrs Washbourne said the family had never heard of shallow water blackout before and did not think that there were any dangers posed by activities like underwater lap-swimming or even handstands.

She said Jack and other family members had been in the pool the day before with Jack, doing what would claim the boy's life the next day.

Since that day, Mrs Washbourne has started the group Shallow Water Blackout Australia, telling Jack's story to raise awareness of the issue and hopefully save the lives of others.

"People just don't understand that there are risks associated and they've been occurring for decades," she said.

"There are unfortunately more deaths from shallow water blackout than people realise."

She has joined forces with Royal Lifesaving to spread the word this summer about the dangers.

"We're trying to get the message out that supervision is the key - and that's active supervision, not passive supervision," she said.

"Our other key message is know the risks and the dangers associated with long or continuous breath-holding."

She said the best approach is to avoid repetitive breath-holding and do one lap and then have a five to 10-minute break.

The story about Jack's death was the most read on the Mercury's website this year, with more than 40,000 people viewing it since it was posted on February 15.

Mrs Washbourne said that filled her with mixed emotions, as it was sad for her and her sister, but at the same time it was awesome that the article was the most clicked story of the year.

"I love the fact that we've reached out to so many people and people have been willing to read about it and educate themselves because their loved ones are going to be saved.

"The next time they see their child breath-holding in a pool, they'll put a stop to it."

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