Parenting

My Toddler Drowned on Our Family Vacation–Here’s What I Want You to Know

We were never supposed to leave our beach vacation early to plan a funeral for our 3-year-old son. And, yet, within the course of one week, we had driven to the beach, returned without him, and held his funeral.

Do you know that drowning is the leading cause of death in children ages 1-4 and the second leading cause in ages 1-14? Do you know that 69 [percent] of children who drown are not expected to be swimming, yet they are found in water? Do you know that a child can drown in less than one minute?

Unfortunately, I know these facts all too well.

On June 10, 2018, my 3-year-old son, Levi, drowned while on vacation in Fort Morgan, AL.

Photo: Nicole Hughes

There is a misconception that drowning only happens when you are swimming. But, drowning also happens when you are 200 feet away from a pool, upstairs, eating Cheetos, wearing your neon yellow crab-hunting shirt, when you leave your mom’s side, even though you are usually Velcro-ed to her. Drowning isn’t splashing and yelling. It is silent, and it takes SECONDS.

I have always taken water safety seriously. In each of the pictures I have of my son’s final day, he is wearing a life jacket. Flying a kite with his dad? Life jacket. Eating M&M’s in a beach chair? Life jacket.

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How could I have known that every parent’s worst nightmare would be my reality? It happened so quickly. I don’t know how Levi got away from us as we were cleaning up from dinner, or what lured him to go outside alone. I was the one who found him, face down, in the deep end. Just moments before this horrific discovery, I split a brownie with him. I still had the other half of the brownie in my mouth when I jumped into the pool to grab my son. Mere moments, seconds.

We had six physicians on our trip, including my own husband. If Levi could have been saved by desperation, skill, and love, he would still be here. Yet, how did I not fully realize just how quickly a child can drown? They initiated CPR immediately, even intubated him before the ambulance arrived. But Levi could not be saved, even with this immediate response.

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Nicole Hughes
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Nicole Hughes is the mom of Lily (9), Reese (6), and Levi (forever age 3). Her life was changed when her son drowned in seconds during a non-swim time in June 2018. She will never stop missing her son and is determined to break the stigma around drowning. Follow her journey on levislegacy.com or connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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