After Erica DeSpain read an article about drowning, she and her husband, Jamie, talked extensively about the extra precautions they would take at Jamie's parents' pool over Labor Day Weekend in 2016. They would keep floaties on their then-2-year-old daughter, Hadley, at all times, an adult would have eyes on her every single second, the door leading out to the pool would have its extra lock on it after hours . . . she planned for every possible scenario, or so she thought.
To her horror, with four adults standing just six feet away, Hadley nearly drowned.
The mom, who blogs about parenting her two little girls at Whimsical September, shared with the Today community the details of "the most painful 30 seconds" of her life, in which a lifeless Hadley was pulled out of the hot tub next to the pool by her husband, who then performed CPR to save his little girl's life.
"I thought our 2-year-old daughter was dying," she wrote. "My husband screamed a sound I've never heard him make. We saw her floating face down in a hot tub, and the sheer horror of seeing her blue, seemingly lifeless body pulled out of the water is an image I'm fighting to move past."
It all started around 5 p.m. on the family's last day of their stay with Jamie's parents in Austin, TX. Hadley claimed she was finished swimming and asked for her floaty to be removed. "Allowing that floaty to be taken off of her was my misstep," DeSpain wrote. Then, with all four adults engaged in casual conversation right next to the pool, Hadley silently and quickly climbed into the hot tub. "I can't explain the things that were going through my mind," she writes of the seconds between Hadley being pulled out of the water and Jamie performing the CPR that would save his daughter's life. "I was so hysterical that my brother-in-law was holding me back as I screamed because all I wanted to do was hold her. It was horrific."
Luckily, Hadley began to cough up water while a 911 operator was on the phone, and paramedics in the ambulance and doctors at Dell Children's Hospital were able to keep the little girl stable. "I remember one doctor looking Jamie square in the eye and telling him that he absolutely saved her life," DeSpain recalled. "Twenty-four hours later we were released and sent home to attempt to move on with our lives with our healthy miracle."
Nearly a year later, DeSpain is choosing to recall these details of that traumatic experience to share key takeaways about pool safety with other parents to make sure that nothing like this ever happens to another family:
1. Having more adults (aka more sets of eyes) around can be beneficial, or hurtful. It's easy to identify that I let my guard down when it came to watching Hadley closely because I assumed there were more people to watch her, but in this situation more people actually served as a distraction. We all indirectly thought someone else was watching her.
2. Floaties don't take the place of knowing how to swim. When Hadley was wearing her floaty, she knew she could be independent. We assume she forgot that she didn't have it on. Our new goal is to get her and Sadie private swim lessons and teach Hadley to swim before we're around a pool again. . . .
3. CPR certification and recertification is important and a skill that's actually life-saving if done correctly and with confidence. I had no idea that Jamie goes through annual CPR recertification with the Army, so I was blown away by his ability to jump into action and do what he knew he had to do. The last time I was certified in CPR was four-and-a-half years ago, and it's scary to think how much of those skills I've forgotten. It's not knowledge that's applied often, so forgetting it is easy. . . .