July 20, 2019 is a day Maribeth Leeson will never forget.
It was a normal Saturday at the pool for the Tipton mother, her children all vying for her attention at the same time. But a seemingly normal day changed in the blink of an eye and almost ended in tragedy.
“His limp, gray, lifeless body was pulled from the pool and it was every mother’s worst nightmare,” Leeson said.
Luckily for Leeson’s 5-year-old son, Adam, there was a guardian angel with him at the pool that day. But she now knows how close she was to that nightmare becoming a reality and she’s sharing Adam’s story to warn other parents about the dangers of drowning and how quickly it can happen.
“This happened in a pool full of people. A pool full of adults. I’ve read so many stories about kids slipping away from their parents and getting into a pool, to be found drowned shortly later. I’ve never considered the possibility that my child could drown right in front of people who were watching him,” she said.
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Leeson recalls the moments, which seemed like hours, with detailed accuracy.
“A million thoughts were flying through my head as I stumbled around, not knowing what I was doing, screaming,” Leeson wrote in a Facebook post. “I saw my dead baby on the ground. I thought about his twin brother and how could his life go on without his twin. I saw my 10-year-old son, hysterically sobbing, in his bright blue swim trunks, his beautiful tan skin glistening with pool water still. His life ruined because he just watched his brother die, drowned in the same pool where he was playing.”
Leeson recalls the fog around her brain as she watched everyone around her spring to action while she could just stand there â€” like she was in a dream.
“It’s exactly like I’ve read other people say in emergency situations: I thought this must be a dream, one of those dreams that you wake up sweating from, short of breath, because it was so real,” Leeson said.
When reality finally hit her she ran to her little boy’s side, crying as she watched her friend performing CPR on his little body.
“I have no idea how long it was. 10 seconds? 3 minutes? I don’t know,” Leeson said. “He looked awful and perfect at the same time.”
Leeson recalls watching as her little boy vomited water, still not breathing â€” and then, a miracle.
“I don’t remember what it was at first, but he showed some sign of life because several people at the same time exclaimed, ‘There he is!’ and encourged me to keep talking to him,” she said. “My friend kept working. I kept talking. He started to open his eyes and another round of exclamation occurred.”
After Adam showed signs of life and his pulse returned they moved him off the concrete and inside the pool house.
“I was sure even if he was saved it was too late,” she said. “I was sure machines were going to be doing his living for him. I was sure it had taken too long.”
Adam’s story could have ended so differently. Leeson says it taught her that all of the thoughts she had about drowning and how she’d know if she saw it were completely wrong. She also understands that any parent could make the same mistakes she did.
“When I found him myself, two feet from adults who were in the pool, my first thought was that it wasn’t him, that it was someone else’s kid who was seeing how long they could hold their breath,” she said. “I can 100 percent understand why the adults who were right there didn’t recognize that he was drowning, because when I saw him I too thought he was just a kid who was playing.”
Her son is now on the mend. Adam was released from the hospital on Thursday and Leeson says outside of a little coughing and shortness of breath he’s doing wonderful.
“I’m sharing this because I want to prevent this from happening to anyone else. Before going to any pool, first make sure your kids know not to get in until the adult who is responsible for them is ready to watch them,” Leeson said. “That sounds like common sense, but I was thinking because so many adults were present, he was fine, but those adults didn’t know his swimming ability so they didn’t question when he was under water.”
“Second, know the signs of struggle. Adam didn’t look like he was struggling. He wasn’t splashing, thrashing, or screaming. He was simply underwater and couldn’t get his head above water,” she said.
“Third, know CPR. I do know CPR. Could I have performed it in that moment? I like to believe I could have if I hadn’t seen someone else taking charge. I like to think if I had been alone, my survival skills would have kicked in. Luckily, I don’t know, because my amazing friend was busy saving him, but I do know that if I didn’t know CPR, my helping him if we’d been alone wouldn’t have even been a possibility.”
“Please take water safety seriously. I never thought this would be me. It was me, but thanks to God and my dear friend Kristin, my son is still safely here,” Leeson said. “Learn from my mistakes so it’s not you.”