Meet the Humans of the Keys

Meet the Humans of the Keys

Monday, April 20, 2015

Tom Sheahan

"My son went on a trip to the Bahamas when he was 16. This is what kids in the Keys do. I had let him go before. Hindsight is 20/20 or I would have been with him.

The group had just arrived in Freeport when they realized they were taking on water. My son, Nick, and another guy put on snorkels and started free diving under the boat to figure out where the leak was. They needed one of them in the boat, so the guy got out to check the leak from inside the sailboat and Nick stayed in the water. I lost my son that day in 2004.

He was an organ donor, and he saved 3 lives. It was a difficult decision to make, but I think we made the right one.

He would have graduated from Coral Shores in 2006.

We lost our son to a shallow-water blackout. This is what I really want to talk about. Shallow water Blackouts are preventable, but people need to know how they happen and what to do. ALWAYS have a buddy when you're in the water, no matter what you're doing. NEVER be in the water alone.

I remember, when we were kids, taking extra deep breaths, holding our breath, and swimming to the other end of the pool. Well, sometimes when you hold your breath too long and are oxygen deprived, you pass out. That is a Shallow-water Blackout. When this happens to someone, there has to be someone else there, the buddy, to see it and give the person a smack, wake them up. CPR is not necessary; they just need a little jar to get them going again. Had Nick not been in the water alone, we would not be having this conversation."

'Shallow-water blackout is the sudden loss of consciousness caused by oxygen starvation. Unconsciousness strikes most commonly within 15 feet (5 meters) of the surface where expanding, oxygen-hungry lungs literally suck oxygen from the diver's blood. The blackout occurs quickly, without warning.' -- taken from

"We didn't want flowers or anything like that, so a couple of Nick's closest friends' moms organized a fund raiser in Nick's name. It grew over time and we now hold a big Dolphin Tournament, 'The Dolphin Rodeo', every year, in Nick's name, and all the proceeds are used for scholarships to graduating seniors at Coral Shores High School. The Dolphin Rodeo is the first weekend in May."

For more information on Shallow-water Blackouts, Nick, or the Dolphin Rodeo, please visit:

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