Fort Worth, Texas,
01
July
2015
|
12:30 AM
America/Chicago

Drowning tragedy - 'I can't believe this happened to me'

Two short minutes changed everything. Mom tells her story

As parents we have all watched the news to see a sad story where a child was injured or died.  And we’ve also been that parent who thought in the back of their mind, “That is so sad. I am so grateful it’s not me.” Or even “I can’t imagine. At least nothing like that will ever happen to us.” 

Well, I was that parent too. And then one day everything changed in the blink of an eye. 

It takes a while to come to terms with the fact when “that would be so terrible” turns into “I can’t believe this happened to me.” Shock and disbelief take a long time to get over. 

On August 6th, 2012, we lost our 4-year old son Xander to drowning. The day our lives changed tragically forever, we were now that family. On a summer day playing with my three children and our friends in the pool, two short minutes changed everything.

The kids and I had met my friend and her three children for an afternoon at the community pool in her neighborhood. We all swam numerous times a week and were in the water all the time.

Immediately I was confused by the layout of this pool and the sight obstructions from many angles. I said to my friend, we would just have to watch them closely in this odd pool configuration. We began our day of swimming after a quick lunch. My two older girls could swim proficiently and we were still working on Xander jumping in and getting his face wet. He didn’t love water on his face but we were making strides. 

All day my son was attached at the hip to my girlfriend’s daughter, who was 3, they were inseparable; he was very smitten that day. Always a very loving boy, compassionate and wanted to take care of everyone.

After following Xander with his friend on his hip around the bend of the shallow lazy river, my middle daughter asked me to help her get watermelon out of the cooler, so I asked my girlfriend to watch the little ones. Her son called her a couple feet away and when she turned back around, the little ones had stepped too far where the slope starts to get deeper. 

I’m sure Xander panicked when the water touched his face and couldn’t turn around. When my friend turned around his face was under and he was holding his little friend up above the water, which pushed him down. It all happened in less than 2 minutes. 

They were pulled out immediately but he had slipped unconscious. We were amazed that there was a nurse at the pool that day with her children who began CPR right away. Unfortunately, it took too long to get a heartbeat, his tummy was full of lunch. Paramedics finally got a heartbeat after what proved to be too long. We were immediately flown by CareFlight to Cook Children’s in Ftort Worth, Texas where we could not have asked for better care. They did everything they possibly could and took amazing care of our son in his last days. 

In the grief and suffering and disbelief of losing our third-born child, baby and only boy, our hearts and minds have been so expanded by the knowledge and love of the amazing nurses and doctors at Cooks Children’s. The support system they have is amazing.  When they told us he would never wake we immediately agreed for our son to be an organ and tissue donor, we are proud that he went on to save so many lives. And we are grateful for the love and support we received from Cook Children’s and LifeGift donation care at an unimaginable time of our lives. 

Do not buy the misconception from the movies of drowning. There is no splashing or screaming. It is silent and it happens FAST. My mission as his mother now is to carry on what I’ve learned in his name and work for safety and knowledge for parents and children.

It can be a pool, bathtub, toilet, sink or even a pail of water. I am now a fierce advocate with Cook Children’s and the Fort Worth Drowning Prevention Coalition to spread the word of the importance of water safety. I will honor my son until the day I die and I hope I’m teaching my girls to do the same. Even two seconds is too long to turn your back on a child in the water.

Unfortunately, I learned the hard way but I hope our story helps even one family be more aware. I would give anything in this world to kiss and hug my baby boy again. I pray no one ever has to feel what we have.  Please be aware and cherish every single moment you have with your children.

Comments 1 - 19 (19)
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Liza Dennison
08
April
2014
My deepest condolences. Thank you for sharing your story. I admire your great strength to advocate, dedicate time and energy into sharing this painful loss, for the benefit to educate others. Yes, you are right, you always imagine this could never happen. I never thought of drowning as a silent event; it's always portrayed as a dramatic scene of splashing. Sometimes people get to comfortable in a public setting thinking that someone will see something if there is an emergency, but usually it is too late or people didn't even realize a child was in distress because they think they are just playing. By the time they make judgment that this is real, it's too late. I feel your pain, the loss, the only one wish to go back into time, if onlys. I know from your convictions you are a wonderful Mother, I don't hold judgment. I only want you to know that blame or what ifs and should haves cant prevent anything, it only tortures your heart. I know you fear and judged yourself, put yourself under trial and I, as another mother see no faults. It's impossible to shelter our children's every step on this earth. May you and your family be at peace and thank you for your dedication for awareness.
Maureen Trimble
09
April
2014
I know the heartache that you experienced when my family lost my 2 yr. old granddaughter,Jordan 3 yrs. ago to a senseless drowning.She was at her other grandmother's house and was unsupervised for a short time and was found in the family pool.I admire you for your work to bring awareness to watersafety. My friend has a drowning awareness foundation, and I help him with some of his events.Nothing can replace your precious son, just know that your work can help prevent the loss of another beautiful child.
Jackie Savoie
09
April
2014
I lost my grandson, Cullen, to drowning on June 15th of last year in our pool. His 2 brothers and cousin were in the pool and his Dad was nearby and no one saw or heard him jump in. We thought we had been cautious with a fence, lock, and key. Yes, it only takes 2 minutes.
Billy Robinson
09
April
2014
We lost our 18 year old son on June 20, 2012 to a drowning at Lake Brownwood. He was with some friends. He was an amazing swimmer. It is true it happens way too fast and healing happens way too slow.
Kristen Tidwell
10
April
2014
I am so sorry for you loss and thank you for your work to educate the public. I was one of the lucky ones but understand your message well. My daughter was 4 years old and we were at a family cook-out at my husband's supervisor's house. Thankfully we were all seating right next to their swimming pool or our story would ended very differently. My daughter had her life jacket on all day but got out of the pool to sit in my lap to have her lunch. I removed her jacket and told her she would have to wait as long as a Barney show before getting back in.[That was my way of helping her judge time} She climbed down and was playing with the other children when she walked to the edge of the pool and jumped in . There wasn't even the sound of a splash . She couldn't have cried out if she wanted to because she went straight down to the bottom. We all noticed what she had done and I was able to jump in and get her out in time. So anybody listening - he is right when he says you will never hear a sound if your child is drowning. If I had been alone and just went inside for a moment to answer the phone, it would very possible that I would really understand the grief that your family has. God Bless.
Shannon
10
April
2014
Thank you for sharing. It was like reading my own family story. I too have 3 children and my youngest is my 4 year old son, Maximus. Your precious Xander reminds me of him. Loving and caring. Our family similarities end at only the description. I'm grateful to have all 3. Maximus will begin learning to swim this year and it has always scared me as a parent. My brother Layne is 2 years older than me and he save me from drowning when I was 4 in the same way Xander saved his little friend. My brother was older and stronger and able to save himself. No parents in site. Bless you and thank you for inspiring me and other parents to hold on tight and not take one second for granted.
tammy kuestner
27
February
2017
I filled up with tears as I read your story. It hurts so much! We lost our keven who was 3 1/2 years old when he drowned. he was at the babysitters' and was unsupervised. the gate did not latch and he pushed it open. he went after the pool toys. that was 9 years ago.

i always wanted to do something in our son's name. i am trying now to get started. i am in Pennsylvania. not too many local sites come up under drowning support groups.

thank you for listening,

tammy Kuestner
jim mcpartlin
06
June
2017
Great support story
Crystal Scott
16
December
2017
Thank you for being so brave to share your story. I recently loss my 3-year-old son, 9/9/17- in a drowning while he was over his grandma's house for a weekend. Looking up stories from other families who have experienced our tragedy is helping me grieve. I cant move on yet... I feel sad for my son because he relied on me.
Thank you for your courage, it has helped me along my journey. My deepest condolences
Annie
04
January
2018
My deepest condolences, i can feel the pain u gone through, i lost my 18 months old this year , april 7th 2017 , drowned in the pool , with every one at home , it took few mins , and we lost our every thing . I am looking forward for doing any sort of charitable thing on her name , if need help , most welcome
Christopher Castro
06
March
2018
On June 18, at 4:00 pm Boca Grande, Florida my brother Javier Castro was washed away by waves, while saving 3 people . My family and I experience a tragedies that would end up leaving us traumatized forever. To a Father and Mother who lost a Humble Child and a role model also two Brothers and a younger sister. My name is Chris, and I was there to experience that tragedies. Having my brother save my life, my girlfriend life and my sister life it open my eyes in many ways. Made me realize that life can be short. I would've never thought it can happen to me. My Brother Javier Castro made attend to be a bold and brave hero to save the life of his love ones...but sadly not himself. It truly hurts knowing my brother is lost at sea. Till this day I can't bare with pain. ALL I ever do is cry.
virginie Gomes - Mauritius
16
March
2018
Thanks for sharing your message and your story, so sorry to hear about all the parents in the world who have lost a child drowning. 3 months ago we almost lost our 2 year old daughter . I found her floating in our swimming pool and her face had turned blue. I automatically did CPR on her and she eventually regained consciousness. she had so much water in her lungs and was breathing with lots of difficulties. we took her to the nearest public hospital and they managed to clear most of the water from her lungs. she spent the night in ICU with high fever and high pulse from the shock.

She finally work up in the morning with no fever and 100% herself! I do believe it was a miracle as she has no sequelles and is fully herself. Up to now, I still have these images of her little body floating in the water and her blue face and her difficulties breathing and me singing to her and talking to her and kissing her and praying god to save her.. and she fought and she won and she survived! we are some lucky parents and we are so extra careful today.

To all parents who went through a loss or who, like me had a miracle, drowning happens so quickly but we cant blame ourselves for what happen as it will not help us. like other parents, I am still fighting those horrible images out of my mind and reading all your stories help me go through all this and me also I want to do something about this and help other parents.. how? deepest condolences to all of you
Angela
05
May
2018
We almost lost our 3 year old grandson in our pool last Saturday. Your words are exactly what is going through my mind. We believe we lost sight of him for 30 seconds, maybe 1 minute. But it was an eternity. We were all outside, 4 adults, 5 grandsons ~ 11, 10, 7, 5 and 3 yrs old and my 35 yr old mentally handicapped son. The 2 older grandsons know how to swim, the 3 little ones are learning. They do not get in the pool without their arm floaties. My husband and I have been hawks around the pool with all our children and especially our son. We don't have a fence around our pool anymore. We have 3 different locks on our arcadia door leading out to the back yard and the law in Nana's house is no kids outside without Nana and Tata. But it still did not matter. We have many different floatation items, we buy floaties all the time, through out the year, It doesn't matter. Our baby grandson is a daredevil and he knows he is not allowed to get in the pool without his floaties. We even make the 3 little ones keep their arm floaties on when they are sitting around the pool. We adults (my daughters, husband and myself) all sit in front of the pool to make sure we have our eyes on the pool. But it doesn't matter. He was done swimming, we were getting ready to grill. He was sitting next to me on the left, drying off. I turned to my right side to talk to my daughter and that is when he got up and we believe tried to get a toy out of the pool. He was shivering, head first and it was silent. I too never imagined I would be that person, that statistic. He has been in the hospital. The doctors, nurses, EMT even police have been nothing less than miraculous. My grandson does not have any brain damage, all test have come back normal. He is trying to talk but, vocal cord are still weak. He is responsive and looks like my baby boy. We are very lucky, grateful, appreciative and humble. We prayed and prayed, all our family and friends support and prayers have helped us and this miracle we call Gary. Our story could be very different if not for the grace of god and all who worked on him including my daughter's and husband who began CPR right away.

People have already past judgement on us, calling my husband and I irresponsible. It hurts but, I'm not mad at them. I understand. I do not wish this tragedy on anyone, anyone. Our intent was to bring joy to our grandsons, like we have since we began having them. Playing with them in the pool, in our back yard, in our home. Our lives forever changed by this and lessons learned.

I'm going to join a Drowning Prevention Coalition and Advocate, Advocate, Advocate to spread the word of the importance of water safety. It only takes seconds.

Thank you for sharing and allowing me to share. I needed to write this.
Maria Ragan
25
May
2018
I want to share too my the loss of my son Dustin Levi Ragan. My boy was 25 years old, married, wife and has three children 2 boys and one girl. One evening the summer of June 23, 2018, my son went on his daily fishing hobby, Bow fishing. That week, it had rained a lot in the South, precisely in "Slap Out" Alabama. He went missing from the spot he fished all the time and the gates to the damn had been opened. I don't know to this day if the gates opened while he was still below or trying to hurry and get out, but no sign of him for 2 days. Some people fishing that Sunday at about 3:30 pm saw his body and alerted the rescue teams. It was my son.

Unfortunately, we could not view the body due to the damage I guess. It is now coming a year that I could hardly believe my heart, my heart was gone.

Your story drew me to talk about it and thank you for sharing.

I have always been leary of children in the water. But you never know when something so tragic can happen to anyone.

Your baby was only 4 and had not even experienced life. My heart goes out to you.
Jay roselius
19
June
2018
I can relate....... we just lost our son to drowning.
The thought goes on constantly- never stops. Think I am going nuts.
He was 48yrs old. Trying to save his two lab pups. In a icy
Lake.
Mike
07
September
2018
I feel for your lost. Last August I took my grandson to swimming lessons he just turned 4.Parents are not allowed to stay and watch. So I waited outside the pool area were I could see him only part time threw a fence. At just about quitting time my wife seen a lifeguard run toward the restroom and told me something was wrong. There were many parent but we were the only ones that ran in and they were just starting cpr on him. He died two days late. What bothers me the most is no one from the pool or anywhere that was involved called to check to see how hwas or to say they were sorry. Then no one was charged and they act like it never happened. Like that sweet little boy who just wanted to learn how to swim and always had a smile didn’t matter.
jane authement
18
September
2018
thank you for your words, my son of 22 months drowned in ditch, it's been many years ,like yesterday and everyday, I find myself just looking for him everywhere,everyday and second of my life.,jane
Dellanira Lopez
15
October
2018
Hi I lost my daughter to drowning 4 months ago. Its so hard to cope with her death, I cant imagine life without my little one!
IEshia Jordan
16
October
2018
The heartache you explain sound so Familiar i loss my baby boy we was on vacation in Florida and we was all hanging out by the pool and me and my husband and some more family members was in pool playing volleyball but my baby Josiah was on the outside of the pool and I took my eye off him for two minutes and he had fell into the pool we didn't hear anything no splash or nothing when my sister in law pulled him out I panicked but my husband cousin started CPR on him when the ambulance got there to take him to the hospital they took him to Halifax in Daytona Beach FL they did all they could to help my baby we was at that hospital for four days those was the longest four days in my life then they told he was Brain dead we did donate his organs it really hurts to know I won't see his smile and he was a beautiful little boy it doesn't seem like the pain ever go away this happen on July 26,2018 the worst day of my life me and my husband love him so much word couldn't even explain how much we love him I just want to say it on take two minutes to become tragic I learned that the hard way