DISCLAIMER: I hold myself 100% responsible for what happened. My kids were not unsupervised.
This summer, my family and I decided to undertake the longest road trip to date: Fort Worth, Texas. Why? To visit family whom moved there recently. All of the kids were amazing. Minimal bathroom and food breaks, very little complaining, and a beautiful drive through 7 states. All without a rear entertainment system.
After 29 hours, we finally arrived. The kids were so excited to see their cousins. They hadn’t seen each other in a whole year. It was within minutes of walking inside the house that my kids realized there was a pool. If you know me, or follow me on social, you know my biggest fear is of kids and water. I constantly think about the facts: drowning is the second cause of death in children 1-14 in the US. (who.int), boys are more likely to drown than girls because of their behavior, etc. Stuff you hear in the news during the summer time. But as a good swimmer myself, and with a house full of competent swimmers I felt comfortable with the kids to go in the water (I went in too). After the drive it felt amazing. They have been in several pools before and have taken some swimming lessons, and did not hesitate to use some of what they have learned. We arrived Sunday, and by Wednesday my wild middle child was jumping into the “big pool”. My oldest is way more cautious so he decided to make the “little pool” his own. After our trips to the Stockyards, the Fort Worth Zoo, and the Water Gardens, we fought the intense Texas heat in the pool every day.
The day before we left we decided to just have a family BBQ. One of my brothers had flown in and my other brother was arriving that evening. We all had breakfast and an hour later the kids were in the pool, all of them with flotation devices. I was sitting on the edge taking pictures and just being the lifeguard. Glenn had asked me to go into the pool with him. I told him “ok, but I have to put my bathing suit on, just wait for me.” In the pool, the kids were with my brother, his girlfriend, and my sister. After I changed, I went in the kitchen to talk to my mom, which by the way, is about 6 feet from the edge of the pool. That’s when someone yelled “call 911!”
MY HEART STOPPED. When I looked up, I saw my brother carrying Glenn’s lifeless body. He was gone. In my heart I felt it. I just screamed. I grabbed my phone and tried to dial 911. I couldn’t get the numbers right I was shaking so badly. I didn’t understand because I had been trained for this. As a Girl Scout, in the Coast Guard, and as an NYC Emergency Response Team Member, I should have been able to handle this, but I just could not focus. My brother’s girlfriend took over got a 911 operator. No one was letting me get near him. My brother and my dad were assessing the situation when my sister just yelled “start CPR!” I don’t remember how much time he was gone, or how many compressions were done. All of a sudden he was up and started throwing up blood. When he woke up my family let me hold him. He had soiled his bathing suit, and as I finished changing him the paramedics arrived. He was awake, but he was barely breathing on his own.
The drive to the hospital was about 40 minutes but it felt like a lifetime. Thank God he was awake the whole time. We got to Cook’s Children Hospital in Dallas, and he threw up again, probably 3 days’ worth of food. They performed X-Rays and all the blood tests known to man. The doctor came to me and the first thing he said was, “we’re going to move him to the PICU and put him on a breathing machine. If the breathing machine doesn’t help, we’re going to have to intubate him.” They were most worried about a possible pneumonia. At this point I told my sister she had to call my husband. He needed to fly in. He didn’t get home in time to catch any of the Friday night flights out, so he had to wait until the next day to come in. He called me because he wanted to see him. I did not want that. Glenn still hadn’t been awake since the ambulance and was covered in medical equipment. But he insisted, so we Facetime from Glenn’s bed that evening. When he finally saw him we couldn’t help crying together.
I wasn’t sure what his outcome would be. He was put on the C-Pap machine Friday around 2 pm. All he did was sleep. Late Friday night, he woke up for a minute, ask to vomit, and go back to sleep. When they came to check him on Saturday (around 4am), he asked to go pee by himself (they had put diapers on him but he refused to use them). This was HUGE. A sign that there wasn’t neurological damage. Around 6am when he woke up and I asked him if he wanted to play Super Mario Run on my cell phone. He said “YES”. He tried, but with all the monitors connected to him he couldn’t feel comfortable and quit and went back to sleep. Around 9am he asked to have some water. Unfortunately, they couldn’t give him water yet. The staff did not want him to ingest anything until they felt everything was out of his system. However, the nurse and the respiratory therapy technician decided to keep the mask off for a little bit and see how he did, since his oxygen had been stable the whole night.
By Saturday afternoon they decided to move him to a regular room. In no time he was playing his Nintendo Switch and getting mad at the doctors who interrupted him. In one instance the doctor was talking to him and we told him “Glenn, pay attention. Pause the game so you can hear the doctor.” What did he say? “I don’t know how to pause the game!” TOTAL LIE. Already back to being his video gaming self! Now he was able to get food and go to the play room. Saturday evening my husband got to the hospital and stayed with him. By Sunday morning this kid was back to himself. He only complained about his jaw hurting and his loose tooth.
The rest of the family came to visit, and that was so special for him. He played with them in the awesome play room (one of Cook’s Children’s Hospital many wonderful features). He colored with his cousins, raced hot wheels with his brother, and laughed with his sister. His face was swollen and he looked older (almost like an old man), and despite the fun he had with family, he still seemed a little sad. When I asked him if he knew what happened: he said, he jumped and lost his floatie. He was trying to crawl in the bottom of the pool to the stairs. That’s the last he remembers. The doctor who did checks on him saw my face and felt my fear, and he proceeded to tell me “this happens to the best of us. My son fell of the pier at the lake with no floatation device right in front of my face. He also nearly drowned.” It reinforced how common these events are.
Sunday he was discharged. The swelling had gone down, and the youthfulness had returned. He walked out the pediatric ward singing R. Kelly’s “I believe I can fly”. NO JOKE. He had no shoes, a stethoscope that the doctor gifted him, and a shirt that said THE DUDE. As soon as we got to the house, he wanted to show my husband the pool and go back in with him. I wasn’t ready for that, but because I didn’t want him to suffer a form of PTSD I let him put his feet in the water. I sat next to him and did the same thing. This whole time I felt my heart was still. And just like that my son went back to normal, even after nearly losing his life.
For me, there is no going back to normal. I have nightmares every day. I relive the moment every day. I blame myself every day. Why didn’t I stay outside and just lifeguard? Why didn’t I go in the pool with them in the first place? Why didn’t I ask any adult to keep an eye on him because this child is seriously fearless? Why didn’t I respond with my training? Why? Why? Why? I don’t know any of these answers. I probably will never know and I most likely will need therapy to get over this, because I am the safety mom. I am the mom who has avoided every pool birthday party, every pool playdate. I am the mom that still has gates in the house even though Grace is about to be 4. I am the mom that has her 7 year old, 72lbs son in a 5 point harness car seat. This wasn’t supposed to happen on my watch. This wasn’t supposed to happen to us.
But Glenn is something else. This child has a special light. He has fought for his life twice in his 5 years of life, first with cancer, now this. He is fearless and brave, a warrior and a survivor. And maybe there is a reason this happened to him. Maybe God is preparing him for his future. God is preparing us for when he’s jumping of an airplane or swimming with sharks. This is him. I don’t think many other kids would have survived this and responded the way he did.
This is our story but I hope you take with you these lessons:
-NEVER SAY THIS WILL NOT HAPPEN TO ME. The truth is accidents happen. It will not matter if your child can swim or they are supervised. Things go wrong and you have to be prepared.
-Always have someone who is first aid/CPR certified when around kids. THANK God most of my family is trained and were able to save his life.
-When you travel lookup the hospitals in the area. I HAD NEVER EVER THOUGHT ABOUT THIS. When the ambulance got there and asked me what hospital to take him to I had no idea. My sister had only been living there a year so we were clueless.
-Trust your gut. I was just talking about my fear of kids and water a week before. I always had that gut feeling. Maybe from my time in the Coast Guard, maybe because water is so potentially dangerous.
-Be aware of who your kids are. I trusted my kid. And I failed. Because I’m aware of Glenn’s’ personality and I should’ve insisted on him waiting for me.
Glenn is fine now, and everything is seemingly back to normal. He’s still active and fun loving, and shows no adverse effects to what happened. He’s not afraid of the water, or any other craziness for them matter. All this even being well aware of how scary things could have become.
This is why I have been inactive on social media, and just with people in general. I needed time. Time to think, time with the kids, and time to process, to make sure this does not happen again. Please be safe.