It breaks my heart to be writing about yet another drowning death of a small child, but as drowning is 100% preventable, this is another type of story I will continue to write until I no longer have to. This latest story will hopefully spread the message of drowning prevention far and wide because a celebrity is involved: Olympian Bode Miller and his wife, professional beach volleyball player Morgan Beck Miller, lost their 19-month old daughter Emmy to drowning last month. Last week, the heartbroken couple spoke out to the TODAY Show about their tragedy, and about spreading Emmy’s story to save other little lives.
As another grieving mom reported just last week, drowning is the number one cause of death in children ages one through four. Nicole Hughes wrote how she was astonished that her pediatrician had never spoken with her about this statistic, she had no idea drowning was so prevalent until she lost her son 3-year-old son Levi the very same day, June 10, that the Millers lost little Emmy.
Bode Miller echoed Hughes’ shock about drowning being the biggest cause of death in toddlers, telling TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie, “It’s the number one way that you could potentially lose your kid. If it’s number one for me, I want to know about it…I’ve been to all the pediatrician’s meetings and check-ups on our kids. And I can’t say it’s come up one time. Not a single time.”
We are beyond devastated. Our baby girl, Emmy, passed away yesterday. Never in a million years did we think we would experience a pain like this. Her love, her light, her spirit will never be forgotten. Our little girl loved life and lived it to it’s fullest everyday. Our family respectfully requests privacy during this painful time.
Bode Miller and Morgan Beck Miller, who are expecting their third together, have now made it their mission to make other parents aware that drowning is THE number one way they could lose their small child.
Bode Miller says speaking out about their tragedy is “an obligation to some degree. I think it does, in some way, help to heal a little bit. That maybe we’re preventing it from happening to somebody else.”
The Millers had a fence installed around their own pool so that it was not accessible to their young children, but Emmy slipped away and fell into a neighbor’s pool, close friends who they visit several times a week. Bode Miller was with one of his older children at a sports event while Morgan had the younger kids at the neighbors. She told TODAY that her kids were just playing together at her feet while she sipped some tea with her friend, “And Emmy would go back and forth, which was all of 15 feet. And all of the sudden, it was just too quiet for me. We’re in mid-conversation and I stood up. And I turned and I went right to where the boys were and I said ‘Where’s Emmy?”
Before her boys could respond, she found the answer.
“I turned around and the door that leads to the back yard, that was closed, had this tiny sliver of light coming through the side,” Morgan recalled. “And my heart sank and I opened the door and she was floating in the pool. And I ran and I jumped in.”
Morgan pulled her daughter out of the pool and started CPR while her neighbor called 911. Emmy was rushed to the hospital, but her life was already slipping away.
“The doctor said her brain had just not had enough oxygen for too long of a time,” Bode Miller said.
Morgan admitted to struggling mightily with guilt, and both Millers said their three other children and one on the way give them strength.
“When they talk about her and share stories, they always have a smile on their face,” Morgan said. “And they constantly remind us we’re still here. And it allows us to bring our focus back to the things we still have to be incredibly grateful for.”
Moms and dads, I know I’ve said it several times this summer, but this message cannot be shared enough. Watch your children around water. Every. Single. Second. Be aware that drowning is quick, and silent, and most often happens when a child is NOT expected to be swimming, but can even happen in a pool where others are swimming and go unnoticed.
To truly protect your children around water, take Nicole Hughes’ idea seriously, and assign one adult to be the “water guardian” any time children are near water. That person should be solely focused on ensuring the safety of the kids around, and should not be engaged in conversation with other adults, looking at their phone, or any other form of distraction.
Our sympathies and prayers are with the Millers, and with every family who has lost a child to drowning, especially this summer. Let’s honor their legacies by vowing anew to protect our kids around water.