The near drowning accident of our toddler changed our lives forever. Although our children are constantly supervised in and around water, our toddler was seconds from drowning that day.
This is going to be hard to read. It will be even harder to write. But, writing is a way of release for me. Therapy. So this is what I need to do right now. What happened to us is very personal and was (is) extremely difficult, but I am putting that aside in hopes that this will be a first step in helping me heal.
On Sunday, August 5, at 4:13pm, we found Josie unconscious in my inlaws’ pool. This is the minute of our lives, the very minute, that we were all changed forever.
It was my father-in-laws 75th birthday and we were there to swim, eat and celebrate him. It was my little family along with my sister-in-law, Laurie. When we arrived, the girls immediately wanted to get in the pool. I sunscreened them up, put Josie’s Puddle Jumper on her, laid out the towels and watched them all climb in. Giggly and happy on such a beautiful day. They swam for a good while and were having the best time. Josie was in and out of the pool like a typical toddler. I followed her around everywhere as she explored the yard looking at butterflies and Nana’s flowers and climbing back down into the pool. Repeat, repeat, repeat again.
After a while, we all headed inside to eat. Caroline and Josie were on their bellies watching Toy Story 3 in Poppy’s living room. Lying on a towel in their swimsuits. Looking all summer-like and sweet. I was constantly aware of where she was. Every few minutes I would call out for her and I watched that back door like it was my job.
I had taken off her floaty so she could eat and so it could dry out outside. I remember the girls talking back and forth and asking each other if they wanted to get back in or not. They all decided not to at the moment.
I remember seeing Tony outside finishing up at the grill, but we were all going in and out of the door with food, towels, and grabbing drinks from the fridge.
I remember getting my plate ready, fajitas, rice and chips.
I remember looking over to the living room and seeing that towel they were, minutes ago, lying on…..empty.
I remember putting my plate down on the table. Right there on the corner. Closest to the back door.
I remember walking to the door…it was open just a bit… and saying out to Tony, “Where’s Josie?”
“Is she still watching the movie?”
I remember in that very moment, I knew that something was wrong. VERY WRONG.
I looked to the pool and there she was.
Floating. Face down. On her little belly. She very slowly rotated to her back. I don’t know if it was the water moving her, or if she did that. I’m going to guess, sadly, it was the water.
I remember yelling “OH MY GOD SHE’S IN THE POOL!!!!”
We both run. Tony jumps in. He pulls her out and carries her out of the pool.
I will NEVER forget this moment. The look of her face. Her skin. Her lips and hands.
Gray skin. Blue lips. Eyes rolled back.
The way her little curls were soaked and stuck to her forehead. Sweeping across her ears and neck.
She was limp.
I remember thinking…. how can she be so floppy? Why is she this floppy? I don’t think it’s good to be this floppy.
I remember wondering…. I don’t know how to save her. Why don’t I know how to save her?
Her face right to our faces.
Face to face. With our gray-blue toddler.
DO NOT TAKE THIS BABY FROM US.
I yelled out for someone to CALL SOMEBODY!!!
I saw my father-in-law pull out his phone.
I started yelling her name. Was I yelling? It felt like I was, but I can’t be sure. Laurie was on one side. Tony was on the other.
JOSIE! HEY! HEY BABY! LOOK AT MOMMY! JOSIE JOSIE JOSIE!! COME BACK TO ME JOSEPHINE!
I think she coughed …. I don’t know …. but next there was water everywhere. Just pouring out of her mouth.
And then she started to cry.
I remember thinking this is what babies do when they’re first born…they cry and suck in a big breath. It’s like she’s just born.
More water from her mouth.
Then she starts saying “towel mommy” over and over and over.
I carry her around the pool and sit down at one of the chairs. I remember telling one of the girls … Emily maybe? …. “get that towel please” and thinking to myself. Wow, I just said that really calmly. How did I do that?
I held her and rocked her while holding the towel around her. She just kept saying “towel mommy” repeatedly. She must have said it 100 times.
Tony and Laurie were off to the side. I couldn’t see them. I wondered what they were doing. I just kept rocking the baby.
My mother in law said “She dirtied her diaper. I will get a new diaper.”
She was only wearing her Paw Patrol swimsuit top and a Pampers diaper.
I remember that I was worried to lie her down and change the diaper.
My baby is full of sloshy water. Can I lay a toddler down who is full of water? Should my water-filled toddler sit up or lie down? I don’t know. Why don’t I know what to do?!
I changed the diaper. I went back to rocking her. I wondered what was taking the ambulance so long.
The other girls were there. Emily was staring blankly. Allison was crying. Caroline was pale.
She starts to vomit on me again. Several times she vomits.
Tony comes over. He’s soaked. He takes Josie.
I hear the ambulance.
We both start toward the driveway.
She’s alert and looking at the firetruck. They are the first to arrive. They ask a lot of questions.
How long was she in the water? Did she hit her head? Did she fall in or walk in?
I don’t know. I don’t know. And I don’t know.
I was holding a towel and paced back and forth a bit. The fireman told me to “calm down” and I remember thinking, I mean, I think I’m pretty calm here considering the circumstances. You should have heard me ask my child to get the towel.
Here comes the ambulance.
They say they need to take her to the ER. Where do we want to go? “Whichever is the quickest” we all agreed.
The girls are inside now. I run in to grab Josie’s bag and realize we just used the last diaper.
Do they have diapers at a hospital? Will they fit?
I gather her bunnies, her paci, her carseat. Tony is holding her.
On the way to the hospital, I ride in back with her. She is completely frantic. Screaming, crying. Crying, screaming. She wants me to hold her hand the entire time. I don’t mind. I see Jolene at the side of the ambulance. She climbs in the passenger seat.
We drive the what-seems-like-forever distance to the nearest hospital. I wonder about the rest of my family. Where’s Tony? The big girls? Laurie? Poppy? Are the girls afraid? I’m certain they are.
I look out the back window …. doors? …. of the ambulance and see them behind us in our Yukon. Laurie driving. Tony on the phone. I wonder who he’s talking to. Josie is staring into space and I continue to wonder how she got into the pool. Did she fall? Did she hit her head? Should she fall asleep? I think she wants to fall asleep. The EMT is trying to get her to wear the pulse ox thing. She refuses. He’s trying to talk to her about her Paw Patrol swim top. I keep wondering if she’s cold.
We arrive at the hospital. They wheel her out on the stretcher as she sits in her car seat. It’s not a sight I ever want to see again.
She still wants to hold my hand.
Inside the ER, we have a space right away. I think this room is too big for this little bitty toddler. Don’t they have a baby-sized room?
She’s hysterical. There are so many people in the room. Everyone is moving about. Asking me questions. Talking to each other. Deciding what’s best for Josephine.
Laurie, the girls and Jolene are there. They ask them all to wait in the waiting room. They need the insurance card. It’s in my wallet that’s in the car. Laurie has the key so I walk to the waiting room. When I get there I see all of their sad faces in a row. I look to Caroline. Josie and Caroline have such an incredible bond. Caroline is ghost white and she’s just staring straight ahead.
Caroline? What’s wrong? Are you sick?
She replied, “I’m not sick. I guess I’m just really really nervous.”.
I walk her to the bathroom and she vomits in the floor just before I open it. “Ugh, I was so close” she said.
She’s so upset, that she has become sick. I try to reassure her that it will all be okay. They just want to make sure she doesn’t have water in her lungs now.
Caroline asks question after question. I’m not sure how to answer most of them.
I clean her up and head back to Tony and Josie.
She’s had an X-ray while I was gone. She wants me to sit on the bed and hold her. She’s facing me. Her legs to the side. Her head on my chest. This is the way she will lay on me for the rest of the night. Still in her Paw Patrol top, diaper and no shoes. They give her a breathing treatment of albuterol. She’s hysterical with everything they try and do with her. I try and remind her that we play “doctor” at home and this is just like home. She’s not having that.
Once the breathing treatment is over, she tells the nurse “put dat in trash”.
“put dat med-sin in duh trash!”
It’s decided that she needs to go to CHOA . The X-ray shows fluid in one lung. We are waiting on the transport.
They have to put in an IV. They give her some “happy medicine” through her nose that should make her calm down.
It actually only half way works. She’s that hysterical.
We have to hold her down while they put in the IV. I lie across her body. She’s screaming and crying. Tony and I aren’t screaming. Only crying. They wrap her arm in gauze to keep her from pulling out the IV.
These are the things about toddlers and hospitals that I NEVER wanted to know.
She’s lying down on the bed by herself now. Tony and I on either side of the bed. They turn the lights out in hopes that she will fall asleep. Little do they know….. she aint gonna.
Tony pulls out his pocket flashlight and I wonder how it’s still working.
We make shadow puppets on the ceiling as she lies down. Just like we do at home when lying in our bed. Except today it’s in a hospital.
Another thing I never thought we would do with a toddler.
The transport is here. We put her in her carseat. And back on the stretcher. We take the blanket from the bed. And we are out the door to CHOA.
Tony rides in front. I ride in back with Josie. She still wants to hold my hand. She’s extremely upset when they put on the blood pressure cuff. She eventually falls asleep during the trip. I have no idea where we are. I just want them to drive faster.
At CHOA we wait for less than five minutes for a spot. I’m asked to step away to speak to a nurse. Josie screams for my hand back. I switch places with Tony and he does the talking with the nurse.
Again and again we are asked to replay the scene. To tell the next nurse, the next ER attendant. The next doctor.
Can’t they just all tell each other? Do we really need to relive this over and over? And over?
We are wheeled to room 18. She’s quiet. She doesn’t want ANYONE touching her except Tony and I. The rest of the family is there. I tell the nurse, They want to see her. I don’t know what your rule is here, but they are ALL coming in.
She doesn’t stop them. She offers Josie a purple popsicle. She doesn’t eat it. At one point everyone in the family is in the room. Josie is given a teeny tiny hospital gown. We will end up taking it home with us.
Another X-ray is ordered and we are told that if it still shows fluid (likely) we will stay overnight. If it doesn’t? We go home.
I break down again. The next day is the first day of school. How will we handle that if we are at the hospital? How can that day be special for the other girls if part of us are here?
The X-ray is ordered for 8:30. While we wait, doctors and nurses and insurance people come in over and over. Josie cries loudly just looking at them.
We are finally on our way to the second X-ray. She is absolutely out of her mind as we try to position her for the X-ray. She’s in only her diaper. She pees all over the place and so much that it overflows the diaper. More of the pool water, is all I can think, She’s so full of water.
This is where we need another diaper. We don’t have more diapers.
A nurse comes in with a diaper and all I can think is wow, how did she know what size Josie is?
Eventually, we are able to position her for the scan, but she is crying all the while. Ever so loudly.
We are headed back to the room. Josie is in her familiar position with her legs to the side and head on my chest. She falls asleep.
Some of our small group friends come. They brought pizza. They are a sweet sight to see. He prays with us. Everyone leaves Josie and I on our own in the room. Nana and Poppy take the big girls home to get ready for school the next day. We are certain we are staying put for the night.
At 9:08pm, the doctor comes in. Josie is sound asleep.
The next part of this story? Is nothing short of a miracle.
“The X-ray of her lungs is absolutely PRISTINE. And I’m not sure why that is, but you are going home tonight.”
I remember thinking, Can you show it to me? I don’t understand. I need to see for myself. Are you sure it’s ‘pristine’ because how can that be?
Tony and our small group friends come back in and I tell them the news. I think I’m in shock. Their faces light up.
The nurse returns to remove the IV. Josie is a wreck. She removes the monitors from her little back. Josie is a wreck again.
She doesn’t want to put her clothes back on after removing the gown (that we stuffed into our bag) so I hold her in just her diaper. I tell her we are going home and she says “home? In our white car? In Mommy white car?”
Yes, in our white car. And you can watch a movie.
We carry everything out. Tony, me and our superhero toddler.
She looks sleepy in the car. She doesn’t fall asleep. She’s watching her movie. Ironically it’s Sponge Bob.
We arrive home and the girls are there with Poppy and Nana. I’m overjoyed, yet nervous. The doctor said to watch for “dry drowning”. To watch for a cough, rapid breathing, concave ribs/abdomen. Josie sleeps between us that night.
She doesn’t cough one bit.
It’s been 7 days and she still hasn’t made one single cough. She is perfectly back to normal.
Tony and the rest of us? We are trying to be back to normal. It’s much harder than I expected it to be.
We aren’t sure how any of this happened. We still have so many questions and probably always will.
How did she get outside? How long was she in the water? How did I get her to come back to me? How was her lung showing water and then looking “pristine”? Was she calling for me in the water? Did she walk in? Did she fall in? Why did this happen to US? When we are SO CAUTIOUS? How long will it be before I can close my eyes and NOT see her gray-blue face?
We’ve asked her about the pool. She answers “I go to duh pool. Water got on my eyes. I go to duh doctor”
Neither Tony or I have slept much because, like I said, you close your eyes and you see those moments. We realize just how close we were to losing our child. It makes me physically sick to even think about it. To even type this out. Knowing that we were seconds away from not having her….
That has changed us forever.
We will not take anything for granted. We will live each day the way Josie does … full of spunk, running full speed, giggling out loud and eating all the yummy food. We know what we have here and we certainly know what we were seconds from losing.
Josephine is a FULL ON FIGHTER. After 3 miscarriages she fought to get here. After this accident she fought her way back.
We have witnessed a miracle. Right there in our hands and right in front of our shocked faces.
We are now looking for a superhero nickname.
And also CPR classes.