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My Girl Almost Died From Secondary Drowning—While I Was Right There

Photograph by Eightathome

Please don’t judge me, mamas.

I judged this situation so many times before. Before it happened to me.

It takes seconds. It’s not always anyone’s fault. It was a sunny morning, a perfect 86 degrees and our last day of what had been a magical vacation. We’d done it: we’d watched six kids around pools for a week. We had done activities and just had the best time! We were enjoying the last moments of our kids playing on the water playground with their new friends.

And then the unthinkable happens and Dave turns to me: “Where’s Olivia?”

I’d been watching and Dave was watching. The last time I saw her was three seconds ago.

But she was wearing the same thing as her twin. So was it her? The seconds are rolling by and still no Olivia.

I was starting to feel sick.

Something was wrong.

Where had she gone?

I’m yelling at Dave to check the water slide, in case she was stuck in it, and I was starting to panic.

And then we hear over the speakerphone, “Can Olivia Carter’s mom or dad please come to the deck area?”

A wave of relief came over me. I’ve got the five kids sitting with me. Dave has gone to get her.

I’m thinking, why?! Why did she run away? That’s so silly.

She had snuck behind the path and ran behind the deck chairs in to the other area.

I’m trying to keep five kids occupied. Time is rolling on and I think, "What is taking Dave so long ... we must be in trouble." But we didn’t leave her unsupervised, she slipped away. She literally slipped away in seconds.

Dave runs back—with no Olivia. And my heart drops into my stomach.

“She’s going to hospital, she’s not responding. She jumped into the deep end of the pool.”

I dropped my things and ran. Dave had the other kids.

I ran to the deck area and there were four medics (God bless them), two strangers, and there was my daughter, laying on a towel, white as a ghost. Her top had been cut off and she was not responding well.

It literally happens in seconds. I still blame myself every day.

Our daughter was five seconds away from never seeing us again. The story we got was she had snuck away from us and that she jumped into the deep end of the pool and no one saw her because she panicked and ended straight up at the bottom. Later, we found out in hospital, when she started speaking, that she had actually tripped. And fell.

By the time a stranger saw her, she was floating at the top of the water.

This stranger was a doctor. This stranger saved our daughter's life. She recognized the signs of drowning and made Olivia vomit up all the water she had swallowed. I wish I could of thanked this lady more. She was so kind, she never blamed us.

But Olivia was still not out of the woods. Secondary drowning was a huge possibility and she was rushed to hospital for monitoring overnight. The whole ambulance ride, I held her hand silent tears streaming down my face.

I just kept saying to the medics, “How did I let this happen, how did I let this happen?” They explained that they go to three to four of these calls per day.

Olivia was one of the lucky ones.

She was considered a submersion, not drowning. When we were there, we had pulled out another kid who couldn’t stand up at a water park.

And someone else had pulled out Olivia. It happens in seconds. It’s not your fault.

And I was finally ready to share, even if this helps one person.

Dress your children in highly [visible] clothing.

Take children to swimming lessons or swimming safety, so they can get or the edge of a pool safely and feel confident with water.

Be vigilant with watching—it takes seconds.

Stay in arm's reach of smaller children.

My grief still comes in waves unexpectedly.

Visuals of my little girl. White as a ghost, not responding to us.

That day was the day we almost lost Ollie. I never want to go through anything like that again and I hope you never do. It literally happens in seconds. I still blame myself every day.

This post was written by Krechelle Carter of Eightathome and was originally reprinted with permission on mom.me sister site CafeMom.