CARMEL, Ind. — There’s no hiding 4-year-old Owen Isaack’s love for the water, especially during swim lessons. He has an extra hurdle to learning though. His family says because of the genetic condition phocomelia, he was born without a right arm.
Now they’re sharing his story in hopes of helping other parents keep their kids safe too.
“Besides that, he’s just like any other regular 4-year-old. He’s a crazy toddler, you know,” his mother, Megan Isaacks said. “You know, runs around, has so much energy, just a super, super fun and caring little guy.”
Owen’s family wanted to make sure he had the life-saving skill of swimming. But at first, Isaacks said he was in a “stranger danger” phase, and it scared her to put him in lessons.
“I think that we were very hesitant as well, with only having one arm, how difficult it would be for him to swim at all,” she said.
It took a year before they warmed up to the idea and enrolled Owen at Goldfish Swim School in Carmel.
“What was unique with Owen’s case is we had to modify some of the techniques to get out, but he caught on really quick and excelled very quickly,” said Andrew Joseph, the area manager for Goldfish Swim School.
Joseph said instructors first started by teaching water safety, and that’s a lesson they want everyone to learn.
“What’s really important is vigilance around water, taking swim lessons, and wear a life jacket. Those are huge,” Joseph said.
According to the CDC, drowning is the leading unintentional cause of death for kids 1 to 4 years old and the second leading cause of unintentional death for kids 5 to 9 years old.
“We see it a lot around the retention ponds, yes the pools, but the retention ponds as well,” Indianapolis Fire Department Special Operations Captain Jerry Richert said.
Richert said it’s important to work together as a neighborhood, and if you see a child by a swimming pool or retention pond, say something.
“I know we’re in Indiana, but there’s water all around us,” he said. “Docks, things like that, where a kid could be standing right there, then next thing you know they find them self in the water. So the earlier you can get them to learn how to swim, the safer they’re gonna be.”
Knowing that those skills can be a life or death situation led Owen’s family to enroll him and speak out to encourage other parents to do the same.
“I just hope that any parents or anybody in general is just inspired by those who may have a difference, or a little bit of a difference, but they’re still able to do everything else that anybody else can,” Isaacks said.
Now Owen isn’t scared of the water, loves his instructor Caleb, and can’t wait for lessons each week.
At the end of his lesson Monday, he moved up to the next level.