I never once imagined I would ever find myself at the ER holding my sweet girl in my arms, tears streaming down my cheeks, uttering the words no parent ever wants to say to a doctor, “My daughter almost drowned.”
Two days ago we went swimming with friends at their pool. The triplets love the water, especially my little girl. She is fearless and loves the water so much she’s like a little fish. We were having a wonderful time with our friends. It felt like the perfect summer day.
I took her and one of her brothers to the bathroom then we went back outside to swim. They were both naked so I needed to dress them. The other kids and adults were in the pool playing, too. I got her in her suit.
“Don’t get in the water until I get your floaties on” were the last words I said to her as I proceeded to dress my son.
In a matter of seconds, my life changed.
“She’s in the water! She’s in the water!!” My friend screamed from the other side of the pool as she saw my daughter struggling submerged under the water.
The next few moments were the slowest of my life. I stood up and saw with my own eyes my girl underwater fighting for her life. I couldn’t get to her fast enough no matter how fast I ran.
I could see her tiny feet kicking trying so hard to get out, but she simply couldn’t. I finally got to the pool and pulled her out as fast as I could. Her blue lips are forever engraved in my memory.
As soon as I took her out she instantly started spitting up water and in seconds, she vomited up the water, watermelon and strawberries she had just eaten. She was sobbing.
I was in shock. Her color came back and she coughed a little bit, but thank God she was okay. After about 30 minutes she was back to her normal self and ate a full meal.
From what I can piece together, it looked like she was playing on the larger pool step and got too close to the edge. Silently and quickly my daughter fell into the water and went under. No one saw it happen, but it happened.
I had to call my husband and fill him in. I was horrified to even say the words out loud. After talking to him, we agreed we should take her to the ER. We have read so many articles about secondary drowning and wanted to be sure she was okay. We got the boys home and headed directly there.
Luckily we had an amazing team of doctors and nurses who walked with us through this traumatic experience and helped her recover. She had blood work done and a chest x-ray. My precious girl was so strong and brave, even saying “cheese” during every x-ray picture.
While her lungs sounded great, the x-ray showed pulmonary edema, which is an indication of inflammation and excess fluid in the lungs, which can lead to secondary or dry drowning.
I went numb when the doctor told us this. We were sent by ambulance to a specialized children’s hospital to be monitored for the night. We arrived there around 3 am.
My husband and I laid, exhausted, in the hospital bed holding our sweet daughter as she peacefully slept. I replayed in my head everything that happened over and over. She was monitored for a full day. And was doing great. Her symptoms never worsened and she was mainly just exhausted.
While she almost drowned quietly, silently, quickly, I—as a mother of three—was embarrassed, mortified, ashamed and guilt-ridden.
This experience was a difficult and painful life lesson. My heart hurts. I feel ashamed and guilty that my daughter was fighting for her life underwater, drowning, and I didn’t even see it. She could have died.
The emotions that come with an experience like this are expounding. Not all parents who walk through something like this get to hold their children at the end of the day. My heart grieves for them.
We were given many wonderful recommendations regarding pool safety and I wanted to share one in particular that I loved.
Of course, swim lessons are important, but also it is a great idea to have someone be the “lifeguard” at the pool. Their only job is to watch the pool. They can’t play with the kids, have conversations, go anywhere, etc. And the adults just take turns carrying on this role. We will be implementing this in the future whenever I feel ready to take the kids to the pool again.
I hope, if anything, by reading this you are encouraged to take extra safety precautions by the pool. May this horrifying experience my family went through, be something that your family can learn from as well.
[Originally published on July 2, 2019]