Today marks the one year anniversary since my 3 year old son Judah drowned in an apartment pool. The photo above is the last photo we have of him, taken just an hour before he drowned. We don’t know how it happened, but that it happened quickly. The pool had a waterfall and water jets, covering the sound of him falling in. He was unaccounted for only a couple of minutes at the most, until my wife saw him face down in the water. Our friend Jen fished him out, and my wife and Jen screamed for myself and Jen’s husband Rich.
I remember sprinting the short distance from the BBQ to the pool in shock. I took Judah in my arms and hugged him briefly, privately screaming a prayer to God to heal my son. I lay him down and began CPR. There was no point breathing into his mouth as his little lungs were full of water. So I concentrated on chest compressions, trying to keep his blood circulating. My wife screamed, while our friends called 911.
I have been a Christian for a long time, I am an Episcopal Priest, I truly believed that God would bring him back. That he would cough and splutter and I would hear him cry again. But he lay there motionless, his brain being starved of oxygen. At one point I picked him up and held him, his vomit covered my shirt, an automatic response and nothing more. I pleaded with God, endlessly praying that He would intervene. Nothing.
And then the shock set in and my friend Rich took over the chest compressions. Some 6 or so minutes later the first responders arrived and took over.
I will forever be changed. My faith is stronger, my relationship to my wife and kids deeper. I know how precarious life is. How easy death can be. And how real heaven is.
I don’t blame anyone for what happened, not our friends Jen or Rich, my wife, my kids. This was an accident and accidents happen. I know.
And since this day a year ago, I have learnt how common drowning amongst little ones is. Outside of birth defects, drowning is the number one cause of death amongst 1-4 year olds. In Texas alone, so far this year there have already been 73 drownings, and most of them happened in swimming pools.
This has to change. Which is why the Judah Brown Project, created by one of Judah’s pre-school teachers, Annette Coyne Courtney is vitally important. Christi and I are incredibly vigilant and cautious parents, we know about the importance of car seats, of road safety and chocking hazards, but we had no idea as to how dangerous a swimming pool could be. We want parents to know the risks and how to mitigate them.
So I urge you to spread the word about drowning prevention. If you have young children or know someone who does, head to the Judah Brown Project website for information: Judah Brown Project.
Over the last 9 or so months the Judah Brown Project has been a powerhouse in drowning prevention advocacy. But there is much more work to be done. If you have the means, please consider making a donation so that more parents can learn about the dangers around water, and learn safe approaches to protect our precious kids. If you can donate, click here: Donation.
We will never forget you Juju. Every day we grief, we struggle and we miss you.
We love you son. One day we will snuggle again.