toddler's feet stand too close to edge of pool
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Adriana Quaranto
Creator of the 4F’s Given blog

The Time I Witnessed a Nearly-Drowned Toddler Be Saved by CPR

That day I learned just how important it is to know infant CPR.

There are so many classes expectant parents are encouraged to take: a childbirth class, infant care class, breastfeeding class, infant CPR class. But with so much to do, parents-to-be often skip over first aid courses. I used to think it was no big deal—until a toddler nearly drowned at our local pool, and I witnessed CPR bring her back to life.

It was a Thursday afternoon. The Florida sun was suffocating and my baby daughter Stella had been inside all day. Around 6 p.m., I asked my fiance Eric if he wanted to go to the pool with us. He was wavering between napping at home or chilling at the pool. He went with the latter. And thank goodness he did.

Eric and I were sitting in the shallow end of the pool with Stella, recapping our day and discussing what to have for dinner, when all of a sudden we heard a woman screaming. We looked over and saw she was pointing to the water right next to us. I had no idea what was going on. But without a second of hesitation, Eric dove into the water toward the dark spot at the bottom of the pool.

I still hadn’t processed what was going on until he pulled a body out and placed it on the edge of the pool. I then saw it was a little girl, no more than 3 years old. Her lips were blue. Her body was lifeless. She had no pulse.

I got out of the pool and rushed over to Eric, clutching my daughter—who started crying from the commotion—close to my chest. He was on his knees performing the first round of CPR compressions. Everyone was screaming and running around in chaos, instructing one of the family members to call 911 and swarming around Eric asking if he knew what he was doing. I kept saying, “Give him space! She needs space to breathe!” The mother of the girl, who was now by her side, was hysterical, crying and calling out for her daughter to show signs of life.

Round two of CPR began and even more people gathered around her lifeless body. Someone had called 911 and the property management employees were now at the scene. I was shaking uncontrollably. Everyone was crying. What happened next will forever be imprinted in my memory.

Water started to pour out of the little girl’s nose and mouth. Her chest raised as she coughed. Her eyes began to open. She was alive. What had felt like an eternity was only a matter of minutes. Eric had saved her life.

He laid her on her side and instructed her to keep coughing, and when she was a bit more stable, Eric picked her up and moved her to the lounge chairs into her mother’s arms and I rushed over to place my diaper bag under the little girl’s head. Her eyes were fading in and out and Eric made sure to keep her awake. She was exhausted. Finally, we heard the ambulance sirens and the cops pulled up. They rushed over and asked who performed CPR, and gave Eric a pat on the back as one of them scooped the girl up on his shoulder and brought her to the ambulance.

The reality is that the ambulance had taken too long to arrive, and she would have died if no one had known what to do in that stressful situation. I can’t help but think how blessed she was that Eric decided to come to the pool that afternoon.

A day later, we received a phone call from the girl’s mother and father, who were emotionally spent but eternally grateful that Eric saved their daughter Leah’s life. We invited them over once they were more settled, and a few days later, Leah arrived dressed in her best Frozen outfit and tiara. She remembered who Eric was but didn’t fully understand what had happened to her—all she knew was that she “drank a lot of water.” She had turned 3 years old just the week before.

It’s been a couple of months since that dreadful day. Leah has been taking swimming lessons and is quite the little fish. It’s wonderful to see her jumping in and out of the pool and swimming about—but it serves as a reminder that it only takes a few seconds for your life to change forever.

Knowing infant CPR is crucial. Most hospitals and pediatrician offices offer them for free. Take the class! You never know—one day you might be sitting at the pool, enjoying the sun, and suddenly be called on to save a life.

Boston-born, Florida-raised and New York City-seasoned, Adriana Quaranto is the owner of an event production, public relations, social media and influencer marketing agency, and a New York Fashion Week show producer. She’s also now a lifestyle blogger documenting her journey into motherhood on her blog 4F’s Given, where she talks about her four favorite F words: family, fashion, food and fitness. She is also a contributing writer for the Miami Moms blog. Follow her journey on Instagram.

Published October 2019

Photo: Getty Images