This video has nothing to do with this post other than the fact that I must have watched it at least a hundred times over the past weekend while we waited. And I love how Ronin gives me the "Mom you are so over the top and it's annoying" look at the end.
I tend to hesitate when it comes to sharing super personal experiences on the blog since I like to keep some areas of my life private but this particular event I decided that it was best to share, even though it made me feel like the worst mom in the world. I felt like bringing awareness to what happened may prevent something from happening like this to you.
Here is the story:
It was a pretty normal Saturday (or so I thought). We woke up early, Ian and I made coffee and we had our weekend family tradition of scrambled eggs. We played in the backyard and then Ronin and I headed off to Target to pick up the usual necessities. On our way home I ran over a nail and got a flat tire. Major bummer. 2 hours later we finally got the spare on. At this point it was 2:30 in the afternoon and we were supposed to be at my niece's birthday party at 3. Somehow I made it home in time to shower, get the kids swim trunks on and get them all sun screened up. We made it to the party at 3:30. It was a pool party so all the cousins were in the pool, jumping around splashing and having a great time. All the adults were also all outside sitting around and enjoying the nice weather. I was watching Ronin who was sitting on the big step on the spa, where he had basically stayed put since entering the pool area.
Here is where everything went all wrong... I was sitting right on the edge of the outside of the spa, just a few inches from where Ronin was playing. I shifted my sitting position to talk to my sister-in-law. I turned around for maybe 5 seconds tops. I turned back around to take a peek at Ronin and he was not on the step. Mom panic and fear kicked into overdrive. I frantically scanned the spa and saw him being whirled by the jets to the other end of the spa where his little head was bobbing up and down trying desperately to get air. I pulled him out as fast as I possibly could. The whole ordeal was around 20 seconds from when he fell into the water until when I got him out. Other than Ronin being visibly upset and coughing to get the water out he seemed totally fine after he had calmed down. I am the most over the top over paranoid mom ever and I was so mad at myself that this happened literally inches away from me! He did seem more tired than usual after it happened but I figured he was exhausted from what just occurred combined with all the heat and exercise he had had for the last few hours. We left the party soon after.
At home Ronin just didn't seem like himself. It could have just been chalked up to him being overly tired but I felt in my gut that it was something else. He also started doing this weird cough that made him tense up every time he exerted the effort. I wondered maybe he was still just trying to cough up any water from earlier. I called my pediatrician and left her a brief message explaining what had happened and what his symptoms were at the moment. A few minutes later (that was quick I thought as I answered the phone) she called me back. Now Ronin's pediatrician is usually pretty calm. And most of the time when I phone her for an "emergency" she says everything is going to be fine and gives me a list of symptoms to watch for and tells me if my kids get worse then to bring them in to be seen. Her motto is if it's not too serious then it is better to care for my boys at home rather than bringing them to the ER where they are exposed to all kinds of sicknesses. This time was different. She was stern and said I needed to take Ronin to the ER NOW because he could be experiencing scary after effects of his near drowning incident (secondary drowning). You can read more about what that is here and here. I hung up and we all rushed to the ER. The nurses immediately brought us back. Within moments the Dr was in. He got my story again and in a scolding tone asked me why I didn't bring him in sooner. I told him that right after it happened he seemed totally fine. I told him he was breathing normal and gave no signs that he was in distress. He did not like my answer and knowing what I do know now, I don't blame him. They took Ronin's temp and it was 101. So weird since he was definitely not sick that day.
The doctor ordered an immediate chest x-ray along with a whole list of blood tests. At this point in the evening Ronin was acting limp and almost unresponsive. Once the results were in the doctor came in with the update. His facial expression did not look like it was going to give good news. He said Ronin's blood work came back normal (that's good I thought!) but....the chest x-rays were not good. He said his lungs aspirated. Consequences of this range from no injury at all, to chemical pnuemonitis (from the chemicals in the spa), to death within minutes from asphyxiation. He said at this point it was very serious and he needed to be ambulanced immediately down to Children's Hospital in San Diego to see a Pediatric Specialist. He said all the arrangements were already made and the doctors and team of nurses were waiting for him. My heart crushed into a million little pieces at that moment. I felt like it was literally getting ripped out of my chest. This was my fault no matter how many times people were telling me it was an accident and it could have happened to anyone.
On the ambulance ride down to Children's Hospital Ronin's oxygen levels started dropping. I watched as the little screen in front of him went from 98% to 92% to 89% to 74%. The team on board scrambled to attach an oxygen mask over his little face. I panicked! They tried to keep me calm and told me he was okay but I have never felt so helpless in my life. When we arrived at Children's hospital a pediatric specialist along with 4 nurses were waiting for us. They brought us to our room where there was a x-ray technician waiting. They did another chest x-ray and more blood work. They told me at "this point" we just had to monitor Ronin and wait. Wait for what?! They hooked him up to all kinds of machines and we waited...all night long while Ian and I watched him sleep. On Sunday the sweetest doctor came in and talked to us. She told me that this freak accident caused by the aftermath of a near drowning incident happens more than I might think. She said we did the right thing of bringing Ronin in and that many times it goes terribly wrong (such as parents putting their kids down to sleep and then they never wake up again) because parents think that there kids are fine if they start breathing normally again after a near drowning event. She also told us that there were 2 other little boys on the same floor as Ronin who were also there for the same exact thing!
She said she was very pleased because the latest x-ray had shown that the water trapped in his lungs was beginning to clear significantly. The not so good news was that he had chemical pneumonitis due to the chemicals from the spa getting trapped in his lungs. His lungs were irritated and inflamed but she told us that things were looking better despite the diagnosis. At this point she said the staff will monitor him a little longer making sure a fever or other lung complications do not arise.
Ronin woke up around 10am on Sunday. What I mean is for the first time since the incident he woke up beyond pissed off that he had all these little tubes on him, an IV in his arm and a heart beat monitor wrapped tightly around his big toe. I have never in my life been more happy to see such a grouchy little man! He was back and acting like his normal Ronin self. The nurses came in because they heard him making such a commotion. This was a great sign.
Later that day we got the news that Ronin was officially in the clear and was able to get discharged and go home. Praise God.
I am forever changed since this happened. I will not let this define me but you can guarantee that I will be doing things much differently from here on out. It was a huge wakeup call. And it really taught me that yes...in just a few seconds your life can change forever. I got a too close taste of what that really can be like.
Before Saturday I had never heard of secondary drowning. If I had heard of it before I would have done things differently. I would have brought him in the moment I noticed a change in his behavior even if it was just me being over paranoid or thinking he was just exhausted from the days activities.
What you need to know:
Secondary drowning can be difficult to recognize since the victim appears to be ok right after a near-drowning event. Your child may breathe in a very small amount of water and seem like they have successfully expelled it through coughing. In secondary drowning the water may fill up some of the oxygen rich pores of the lungs, which reduces the ability to oxygenate blood as it passes through. The heart does not slow down significantly with this process but rather very very slowly so your child will still be able to talk and walk. The only symptoms may be a sudden change in personality or level of awareness (just like Ronin experienced) as the blood oxygen level drops over time.
So if your child has experienced a near drowning experience (it can happen in as little water as a puddle or in the bathtub) watch for a sudden change of personality or energy level. You can save your child's life if you act quickly and get them medical treatment immediately.
I hope this brings awareness to all who read this. I am so thankful that Ronin is okay and that I decided to not put him to bed that night thinking everything was fine. I have said many many thank you prayers over the past few days for that. I want to make sure this never happens to another child so pass this on and please share with those who you think might need to know.