Thank you for taking the time to read this. I know this is a hard post to read but I strongly believe that sharing my daughter’s story can help us turn a terrifying ordeal into something that may save your child’s life.
We all want to keep our kids safe. I thought I knew what I needed to do to keep my kids safe around the water. What I didn’t know almost cost my daughter her life.
I ran into the ER with mismatched clothes and wet hair. “My daughter was just brought in. She was in a pool accident.” I said.
A pool accident. That’s what they’d called it when my friend’s little girl drowned a few years earlier. I wondered what it meant at the time but now, I couldn’t bring myself to say “my daughter almost drowned”.
We’d celebrated my oldest son’s birthday with a pool party. Everyone had a great time and my 2-year-old daughter loved splashing around in the water in her life jacket. We are careful around water. I thought I knew how quickly an accident could happen. As we were packing up to leave I removed her life jacket, wrapped her up in a towel and put her on a deck chair.
“I go hot tub”, she said.
“No.” I told her. The hot tub was one of her favorite things but I knew that once I she got in it would take me forever to get her back out again. “It’s time to go home now”.
I left her sitting on the deck chair as I packed up a few things. We had 6 adults standing there so I felt like I could relax a bit. After all, what could go wrong with so much supervision? The truth is, you can NEVER relax when you have kids around the water. Never.
A few minutes later something jerked me to attention and I looked around for my daughter. She was nowhere to be seen. I scanned the pool first but she wasn’t there. The gate was open so I thought she may have wandered out and worried about cars I nearly went there first. Now I am so glad I didn’t.
There are 4 foot tall bushes between the pool and the hot tub that have grown thicker over time so I ran over there to check the other side before I went looking outside of the gate. What I saw as I came around the bushes horrified me. My daughter was face down in the center of the hot tub . . . and I had no idea how long she’d been in there.
I screamed for my husband, “She’s in the water!” and went running for the hot tub, jumping in fully clothed.
I don’t know if it was the shock of the situation or the fact that I was only a month out from my c-section and hadn’t fully recovered yet but I couldn’t get my body to move the way I wanted. I couldn’t get my daughter’s head above the water fast enough. I’d managed to push her closer to the edge and by then my husband was at the edge. He was holding one of the twins and reaching into the water with his other hand.
They always say that time slows down in an emergency but it’s an odd sensation when it happens to you. What must have only been a matter of seconds felt like an eternity. My husband quickly passed off the baby and began frantically working on my daughter.
She wasn’t breathing.
That image will stay with me for as long as I live. Her eyes were open but there was no life in them.
I’ve taken many CPR classes in the past but it’s been a while since I had a refresher and I froze. What was I supposed to do? What was the first step? There was no room for any thought in my mind except that my child was not breathing.
My husband did a Heimlich maneuver of sorts and pushed some water out of her tiny body. Reflexively, she began to vomit. Finally she coughed and took a breath.
We had 911 on the line and, right or not, since she was breathing we felt like we could get her to the hospital faster than we could direct the ambulance into our community pool so my husband grabbed her and rushed to the hospital.
I followed behind after changing out of my wet clothes and making sure the other kids were settled with my mom. Thank goodness we had help available so I could rush out the door and follow them.
At the ER they took me straight back. My daughter was sitting on my husband’s lap on the gurney in a large room surrounded by a team of doctors. Her oxygen levels were in the 80s. That was bad they told me. Her carbon dioxide levels were high. She had fluid in her lungs.
I was able to give my daughter a quick hug. When she saw me she teared up and with her sweet little voice said “mommy”. The doctor said they needed to intubate her to help her breath while her lungs healed. He kept telling me she was going to be fine but I didn’t believe him yet.
My daughter was sedated and intubated and we were told she’d need to be life-flighted to the children’s hospital. The team from the children’s hospital arrived and after stabilizing her they loaded her up and wheeled her away, leaving my husband and me standing in the hallway holding my daughter’s wet bathing suit as strangers took my daughter to the helicopter that would fly away without us.
How does this happen? It took only minutes. There were plenty of adults around. None of us heard a thing.
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