Four-year-old recovering well after near drowning experience

Mother demonstrates the importance of first aid and CPR

Monday, September 12 2016

Four-year-old Ulrich Jacobs is the epitome of a happy, healthy little toddler. So much so, that it is almost impossible to believe that he was on the verge of death just over a month ago.

On 16 July, the Jacobs family was enjoying a relaxing Saturday at an outdoor event when the unspeakable happened. The body of their son, Ulrich, was found floating in a nearby dam. Fortunately, Ulrich’s mother, a nurse with first aid training, was able to administer life-saving rescue breaths within minutes.

“It only took a second for me to run to my child, but it felt like a lifetime,” recalls Jahnine Jacobs.  In a desperate attempt to save Ulrich’s life, she immediately commenced CPR. With every breath she gave him, a burst of water exited Ulrich’s lungs and mouth.

“Cardiopulmonary resuscitation or CPR is a resuscitation technique that mimics the action of the heartbeat and breathing. It maintains the flow of oxygenated blood to the brain, preventing brain damage when the heart stops beating,” Netcare 911’s general manager of national operations, Shalen Ramduth, explains. He asserts that knowing how to perform CPR correctly is an absolute must, especially for parents and caregivers, as it can literally mean the difference between life and death.

While his mother continued CPR, for what seemed like an eternity, Ulrich started crying. This was a good sign as it indicated that he was breathing again. His parents rushed him to hospital immediately phoning Netcare 911 en route.

When Netcare 911 paramedics, Marius Fouché and Jeffrey Lekhuleni met the family on the way to the hospital they were presented with a barely conscious Ulrich by his father, Ettiene.

En route to the hospital in the ambulance, Ulrich’s heart stopped beating again and CPR was re-initiated. The Netcare 911 team stabilised him in the ambulance. Ulrich’s condition was serious.

He was admitted to hospital in Nelspruit but was later airlifted by the Netcare 911 helicopter to Netcare Garden City Hospital’s renowned specialised drowning unit for children, under the care of paediatric intensivist, Dr Myles Bartlett. He remained in hospital for just over a month. After he returned to school, his teacher mentioned how impressed she was by his quick recovery and said that Ulrich is excelling in his schoolwork.

Ulrich has come a long way since his life-threatening ordeal and has recovered remarkably. Fortunately, all he recalls of the fateful day is that he swallowed lots of water. Other than that, he seems almost none the wiser about the near tragic events of the day.

“Ulrich’s story is a testament to the importance of knowing CPR and first aid. Always be vigilant near water, especially when children are around. Furthermore, it is important to note that it is not only the sea and swimming pools that can pose danger. Any water mass can potentially be dangerous to young children, even something as harmless as a shallow bathtub or bucket of water. A child can drown in a few centimetres of water; that is all it takes,” cautions Ramduth.

Netcare 911’s handy tips that may prevent a drowning:

  •  Never go swimming alone.
  • Never leave a child unattended near water.
  • If you have a pool, make sure that the pool in fenced off and covered with a safety net.
  • Never dive into water if you do not know how deep it is.
  • Never swim under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • If you are at the beach, always swim between the beacons set up by the lifeguards for your protection.
  • Always adhere to the rules imposed by the lifeguards, as they are there to keep you safe.

What to do in an emergency
The first priority is to get the victim out of the water. Make sure it is safe to enter the water. Do not become a victim yourself. If the victim is struggling, give him or her something to hold on to, such as a branch or a floatation device. Remember that someone who is panicking can drag the person trying to help him or her into danger too.

Handle the victim with care to avoid aggravating a potential neck or back injury. Many people are injured while diving head first into water without having checked the depth of the water or whether there are submerged rocks.

If you are with other people, have someone call emergency medical services for help. Memorise the number of the emergency medical services in your area, save it on your cell phone and keep it written down next to your telephone.

You can contact Netcare 911 on 082 911 from anywhere in the country and provide the call taker with your exact location as well as a contact number. Do not hang up until the call taker tells you that you can end the call.



Issued by:    Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Netcare 911
Contact:    Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney, Meggan Saville or Pieter Rossouw
Telephone:    (011) 469 3016
Email:,, or