This is Patrick's story of what happened on Friday-
Today is Sunday. Life is nearly back to normal. Eve and Esther were arguing over the pink unicorn toy. Emily was frustrated with Esther for not getting ready for Church. Friday is a horrible memory that makes me cry.
Around two o’clock we headed over to my brother Stephen’s apartment complex for a barbeque and pool time. Emily stayed home because she wasn’t feeling too well. The kids were really excited. Swimming is one of their favorite things to do. Isaac is getting braver. He’ll put his face under the water. Eve clings to the wall and the shallow end. Esther is Esther. No fear. With her water wings on, she runs and jumps into the deep end. She loves the water.
When we first get there, Stephen and I try to get the grill going for lunch. The kids run straight to the hot tub. For them, it’s warm and big enough for fun. They each have flotation. Isaac and Eve have float suits, the floatation is around the chest. Esther has good water wings on. I don’t like them playing in the hot tub because I can’t see them very well. I repeatedly tell them to play in the big pool. My threats of leaving wears off when we discover that one of our old neighbors is at the pool. He remembers the kids and the kids vaguely remember him. He starts to play “volcano” with the kids in the hot tub. I find it funny that they are chanting and dancing around the “lava”. I jump out of the big pool and grab Esther. I lift her up and declare that the volcano demands a sacrifice! With that, I toss her into the boiling cauldron. I laugh and jump back into the big pool to play with Stephen. We’re having man contests. Everyone is having fun. I’m not too worried about the kids. They have on their floats and there are lots of people about. The three of them usually run in a little gang, watching over each other.
Stephen and I are a little distracted. We’re having a underwater handstand contest. I win the first round, but there are claims of illegitimacy to my win because I moved to much. I scan for the kids. In my mind, I see all of them. Esther is by the hot tub again. Stephen and I start again. This time, I hold almost perfectly still. I have some trouble with water going up my nose. With my breath almost up, I surface, smiling. Instantly, I notice that Abbi, who was watching our contest, is pointing at the pool. Stephen is running through the water. He dives down and comes up with Esther is his arms. She is totally limp. I start to cry immediately, “no, no!” I start to move towards them as they set her on the deck. But they start CPR and I decide to call 911. I run over to the table where my phone is but I can’t see it. Stephen’s is there, so I grab it. I try to dial as I rush back to where Esther is. The light is too bright on the screen and I can’t see it very well. I try to dial the numbers but I keep doing it wrong. Abbi and Stephen are working on Esther. I finally get the numbers right and try to talk through my tears saying that “a child has drowned at the Crestwood apartments.” The operator has me stay on the line. I think, surreally, that she didn’t ask me for the address. I hear her talking to someone and the phone disconnects. I attempt to call back momentarily, but someone asks who has the priesthood. I swallow all my pride and doubts and grab the vial from his hand. I don’t care what God wants. I don’t let any vague mutterings of God’s will into the blessing. With my hands on her head, I call Esther’s name and tell her to rise in the name of Jesus Christ.
My mind is totally distraught. Esther is so special to me. She is so funny and energetic that to see her lying like that was the worst. Her skin was totally blue. Her eyes were glassy and rolling back in her head. I remember saying “o God, o God…no, please, no.” Stephen is breathing into her mouth when I see that she has vomited into her throat. I interrupt and say that we need to clear her throat. We roll her on her side and I try to finger sweep her mouth but it’s too liquid. We roll her onto her back and I suck the vomit from her throat two times. I take over her breathing. The first breath didn’t go in well. Her chin is down. I tilt her head and close her nostrils. The breath goes in easy. I give her two breaths. Abbi compresses her chest twenty times. I give her two more. There is movement in her eyes and she struggles to breath on her own. I don’t remember if I breathed again because the paramedics arrived and took over. They decide to move her away from the edge of the pool. A cop/EMT (I don’t remember which) pulls me aside to ask what happens. I answer as best I could but I look over at Esther. She is lying there with an oxygen mask on. She’s breathing on her own and no longer blue. I see they’ve prepped her for defibrillation and I ask them if they had to zap her. They say no. I get down and talk to Esther, rubbing her hands and legs. I’m telling her to breathe and that it’s ok. I’m not ok. There is more confusion talking to the medics and the police officer. I ask Stephen to take Isaac and Eve home. I give Abbi a hug because she saved Esther’s life, seeing her in the pool and doing CPR.
I try to call Emily but she isn’t answering the phone. The medics say I can ride in the ambulance with Esther. They have her head in a brace and move her to a board. They ask about the cut on her chin. They’re worried that she hit her head. I tell them that it’s old. But they still take precautions for a spinal injury.
In the ambulance, Esther finally cries a little bit and moves her arm. She didn’t like the IV needle. But then she throws up again into her oxygen mask. The medics work quickly to clear her mouth. I help by holding the board steady in the moving vehicle. There is a moment of levity as the EMT who was sweeping her mouth with his finger asks for the jaw screw because Esther was “biting the heck out of his finger.”
At the hospital, I’m not as worried at this point if she will survive. She is breathing on her own and somewhat responsive. I’m worried that she’ll have brain damage from lack of oxygen. I ask one of the nurses how long can the brain survive without oxygen. The response is a reassuring six minutes. I know that she wasn’t in the pool that long.
She’s thrown up again. It’s cheetos puke, bright orangey. She’s thrown up four times since coming out of the pool and smells like cheetos puke. We’re never buying cheetos again.
Emily finally arrives. She sees her baby in the neck brace and the tubes in her arms. Esther’s not moving so the scene is that much scarier. Sometime during this, Esther has a CAT scan of her head done. There is no damage to her neck or her brain. The x-ray of her chest shows some damage to the lungs, but the doctors aren’t too worried. They decide to send us to Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake because they are better equipped to for children if something did go wrong.
By the time second ambulance shows up to take us to Primary Children’s, Esther is talking a little bit.
Emily tells me that the first thing she heard was Eve coming in the door saying “Esther is dead!” and the Isaac following “She drowned!” Her fears were magnified as Stephen walked in the door crying. That’s a rough way to find out, even if it turned to be wrong.
At Primary Children’s, their specialist confirmed that she was going to be fine. Her lungs will heal perfectly. One of the techs comes by and asks if Esther had been given a “special blanket.” She hadn’t so the tech leaves to get one. She comes back a few minutes later but the hospital is out of cute blankets. Instead, she has brought Esther a neon pink unicorn. It hurts my eyes to look at it but Esther loves it. It is named Sunshine Unicorny.
The doctors decide to keep Esther overnight just to be safe. I stopped worrying about her brain when I read her a book and she perfectly answered my questions about the story.
I asked her what happened. She said that she jumped into the pool and sank. I asked what happened to the water wings – she took them off.
Esther slept most of the day night. On Saturday morning, she woke up around 6:30am and was almost 100% the Esther that we love. They released us a couple of hours later.
Today, you’d never now how close things were. She is the same smiley happy little girl.
I’ve thought about the situation a lot. I don’t believe I was horribly inattentive to my kids. I tried to keep their floats on them. One of the thoughts that troubles me most is that I was underwater the same time she was. While she was struggling to breath and swallowing water, I was playing a game. During the CPR, I had the strange thought that breathing on a child is way easier than the stupid dummies in the class. Drowning in the movies is a big lie. They don’t show the child blue with her tongue sticking out. They can’t portray how lifeless her eyes are. In the movies, the kid coughs up clear water. Real life was full of vomit. Stephen and I talked later that the worst part was how unresponsive she was. We both thought that we were too late.
I made the joke all day somewhat seriously that no one – no one – should have to perform CPR for the first time on their own child. I say that after class everyone goes to the local mall and finds some old guy having a heart attack. You work out the bugs on a stranger, so when your child needs you, you don’t mess up.
We are so incredibly lucky. There is a huge list of things that went right for Esther. First, she was spotted relatively early. We had trained CPR responders right there. The phone was within twenty feet and the hospital was only a half mile away. Everything was in her favor.
I can’t imagine life without her. I love you Esther.