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 Ft. 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.
Misty Vento works closely with SafeKids Tarrant County, led by Cook Children’s. A Water Safety Walk in Xander’s memory will take place on June 1, 2013.