Sridevi’s fans were shocked to hear that the actor drowned in a bathtub. The Dubai police have said that the actor was found dead in a bathtub and there were traces of alcohol in her blood, brushing aside earlier reports of a cardiac arrest.
The police also said that there was nothing extraordinary in the death. The report was met with skepticism initially as people wondered how could a person drown in a bathtub.
The fact is, a bathtub is enough to drown a person. Even a glass of water in the lungs can kill a person, doctors have warned. The situation can be complicated if the person loses consciousness.
Even very little quantities of water in the windpipe could lead to death, especially when the person is unconscious. Sridevi must have been unconscious when she drowned in the bathtub, the Dubai police have said.
When water enters a person’s mouth it could either pass through the food pipe to the stomach or through the windpipe to the lungs. The second possibility could be deadly but the body has an impressive mechanism to prevent such a situation. Whenever we drink water the food pipe expands and the passage to the windpipe is blocked momentarily.
This open-shut valve operates without us even being aware of it. Yet the operation needs a certain level of coordination in the brain. When a person drinks water, it goes automatically to the food pipe, unless she is unconscious.
Water could flow through either the food pipe or the windpipe in the case of an unconscious person. The water entering the lungs would choke a person to death.
Cardiac arrest could be a reason for losing consciousness. In Sridevi’s case, however, there were no signs of a cardiac arrest. The post-mortem examination did not find any traces of a block in the arteries.
An epileptic seizure could also lead to a momentary lose of control and subsequent drowning in knee-deep water. Sridevi did not have a history of epilepsy, according to available reports.
A third possibility is that the person was drunk or under the influence of sedative drugs such as sleeping pills at the time of drowning. The valve mechanism at the opening of the windpipe may not be very efficient when a person is drowsy.
Whenever a foreign object enters the windpipe, we tend to pump it out with a bout of cough. An unconscious person, however, may not be able to cough also. Even if she tried to cough, she could have lost total consciousness within moments when the oxygen supply was hit.
A person could be saved only by another person in such situations, said Dr Arun Sree Parameswaran, a physician at the department of general medicine in the Government Medical College at Pariyaram.
Sridevi could have also lost consciousness had she hit her head against the bathtub. If the impact of the fall was greater enough to make her pass out, that could have led to drowning.
In such a scenario, there would be contusions or clots at the back of the head. Sometimes the impact would be visible in brain too. All these signs would be revealed in the post-mortem. No such evidence has come to the fore as of now.
All we know is that a tub of water is enough for a person to drown in.