Monday the 24th of January started like any other in the Cherry household. Our 1yr old twins woke up at 06h00 and played in the lounge till their breakfast at 07h30. My wife left for work at 08h20 and I gave the boys their bottles straight after and put them down for a nap. After spending time doing some cleaning, dishes and planning the day ahead, Kade and Austin finally woke at about 11h00. After a nappy change, I decided that due to it being a gorgeous, sunny, windless day in Cape Town, we would spend time in the garden playing in the sandpit and knee-high, blow-up swimming pool. The boys love water and enjoy splashing around endlessly. The pool was not full, in fact, when the boys stood up, the water would just about reach their bums, which we did for “safety” reasons.
I took photo’s of the boys playing, laughing and splashing till it was time for their lunch at 12h30. Making an absolute mess with their bread, cheese and lentils I put them back in the pool to rinse off for 5 mins. I dried them off and brought them inside for a bit of t.v. as I needed to go to the toilet. Closing the baby security gate behind me with both boys in my arms, I failed to notice that the curtain they had been playing “peek-a-boo” behind earlier, had prevented the gate from latching securely as I dashed for the loo.
Kade took advantage of this freakish negligence and wondered outside with his brother in tow.
Finishing up in the toilet, I walked past the office window and noticed Austin holding onto the side of the pool looking in and I immediately got angry, thinking that they have somehow managed to figure out how to open the gate, and that we would now have to spend more money on a proper security system. As I walked closer to the pool, I noticed the little arms and legs at the bottom and when Kade’s full body came into view, his eyes were closed, his mouth was open and he was a deathly blue. I couldn’t have spent more than 3 mins on the toilet, but I guess, that’s all it takes to lose a child.
I immediately panicked and yanked Kade out of the water and tried to make him stand, but it was too late for instant recovery and his limp body just collapsed in my arms. I can’t even explain what was going through my mind right then. The cliche’d statement of “Your life flashes before your eyes” is no cliche’….. it’s an awfull truth! Just as I was about to double my load of horror and panic, the logic hit me like a punch to the gut and I began giving my child CPR.
My wife Cindy and I had done a First Aid course when the boys were just 3 months old. We nearly put it off, always busy being new parents, but decided to get my mom to baby-sit for a few hours one saturday morning. Money well spent I tell you!!!! I can’t thank my wife enough for her insistence!
My panic almost immediately switched off as I started with the first breath and followed with the compressions. I noticed Kade turning bluer and bluer the more I did the compressions and realised there must be a blockage. I looked down at his stomach and saw how bloated it was and gave two hard compressions just under his rib-cage and suddenly his lunch started oozing out of his tiny blue mouth. Wiping the mush away from his face, I continued the CPR and within seconds I heard his little whimper and I just picked him up in my arms and cried. I had just save my son’s life and the emotion was just too much to handle. On the lighter side, during my panic and CPR I managed to catch a glimpse of Austin, standing over his brother, watching me, patting his belly, as if giving himself compressions as I was doing to Kade. That tiny second makes me smile now and again.
My son was breathing, but my job as a father/temporary medic was not yet over and my son’s life was still in danger from “secondary drowning”. I put Kade over my shoulder and made him spew up the rest of the water, while grabbing Austin and made my way inside to the lounge where I put a limp,groaning, yet an alive Kade on the carpet in the recovery position who was now almost back to his original fleshy colour. I slammed the gate in anger, this time making sure it was locked properly and called 082-911. After explaining that I had a drowned child on my hands, that I had preformed CPR and that he was breathing and alive and of course how to get to our home, I called my wife and explained to her in a quivering voice what had just happened and that the medics were on their way and that the situation was under “controll”.
The medics arrived seconds after I ended the call to my now poor, hysterical, crying wife and got Kade into the ambulance for them to administer oxygen. All the while, Austin tucked tight under my arm, like a surfboard(ha ha) Seeing our tiny child on the gurney with an oxygen mask covering his face, broke me. The medics were amazing though, and took over from where I had left off, checking Kade’s vitals and keeping all three of us calm. One medic even gave Austin a luminous green glow stick to play with to keep him occupied (ha).
My wife was waiting for us when we arrived at Cristiaan Barnard and took Austin while the medics took Kade and I to the emergency room for further inspection. All this time I couldn’t let go of his tiny hand realising that, had I not known what to do, I would have lived the rest of my life with guilt and shame, no matter how much counseling and therapy I underwent.
After copious amounts of ridiculous paper work, despite having our medical aid card, we finally made our way to the pediatrics ward. The boys Pediatrician met us as soon as we arrived and told us that Kade had picked up a lung infection from all the water he swallowed and had a fever of about 39.deg. He was to stay in hospital over night under observation. My mom and sister arrived not long after and took poor little Austin home to bath and have dinner, while my wife and I stayed with Kade. At about 21h00 I told my wife to go home to Austin while I stayed overnight with Kade. I knew there would be no sleep for the two of us, out of sheer worry, but at 00h00 Kade decided that it was time to play with the other kids, who were all now fast asleep, ha ha! Kids are so resilient. They have both totally forgotten what happened that near fatefull Monday afternoon, unlike Cindy and I who both cried everyday for a week after the incident. We also managed to sneak in a trauma-counseling session too, though it doesn’t stop the visual flashes of my near dead, blue son I often have, even during a busy day!
I hope my story has shocked or at least inspired all parents or anyone for that matter, who lives near the coast, has a swimming pool or even owns a bath or mere bucket of water. I urge you to go and equip yourself with a First Aid course. If not for you, then do it for your kids and other loved ones. Having read this and you don’t do anything, well then SHAME ON YOU!
As South African’s, we all think “it’ll never happen to me” If you choose to live an ignorant life, then at least take responsibility for the consequences and don’t let your loved ones suffer!!!!
Austin and Kade’s Hero/Dad and Mom
Gary and Cindy Cherry