Desirée Fortin is the busy mom of 2-year-old triplets—two boys and a girl—that keep her hopping 24/7. But in a recent post on her Facebook page The Fortin Trio, Desirée tells of an experience she NEVER thought she’d have as a mom, one that nearly cost her daughter Charlize her life, twice: once from almost drowning and once from nearly dry drowning.
In her harrowing recounting of the story on her Facebook page, Fortin describes how her family was spending the day with friends at their pool when she took a break to take two of her triplets, Charlize and Sawyer, to the bathroom. What happened next in a pool area FILLED with responsible adults could happen to ANY busy parent. Fortin says:
I took Charlize and Sawyer to the bathroom then we went back outside to swim. They were both naked so I needed to dress them. The other kids and adults were in the pool playing, as well. I got Charlize in her suit. “Don’t get in the water until I get your floaties on” were the last words I said to her as I proceeded to dress Sawyer.
In a moment, an instance, a matter of seconds, my life changed.
“She’s in the water! She’s in the water!!” My friend was screaming from the other side of the pool as she saw Charlize struggling submerged under the water. The next few moments were the slowest of my life. I stood up and saw with my own eyes my girl underwater fighting for her life. I couldn’t get to her fast enough no matter how fast I ran. I could see her tiny feet kicking trying so hard to get out, but she simply couldn’t. I finally got to the pool and pulled her out as fast as I could.
Her blue lips are forever engraved in my memory. As soon as I took her out she instantly started spitting up water and in seconds, she vomited up a lot the water, and the watermelon and strawberries she had just eaten. She was sobbing. I was in shock. Her color came back and she coughed a little bit, but thank God she was okay. After about 30 minutes she was back to her normal self and eating a full dinner meal.
After getting Charlize settled, Fortin tried to figure out just HOW her daughter had gotten into the water without anyone noticing. She continued,
It looked like Charlize was playing on the larger pool step and got too close to the edge and quietly, silently, and quickly my daughter got into the water and went under. No one saw it happen, but it happened.
Parents, we simply CANNOT be too careful!! I myself am not a strong swimmer so I’m always so nervous around the water because I know that I am not the best candidate to save my children should they be in distress in the water. I am determined that all my kids will be much better swimmers than I am.
Finally getting a moment to think, Fortin describes what happened next, when she had to call her husband and tell him about the incident.
I had to call my husband and tell him our daughter almost drowned. I was horrified to even say the words out loud. After talking to him, we agreed we should take her to the ER. We have read so many articles about secondary drowning and wanted to be sure she was okay. We got the boys home and headed directly there. We stood in the lobby of the ER. My baby girl was tired, cradled in my arms, and the dreaded words came out of my mouth as tears streamed down my cheeks,
“My daughter almost drowned.”
Secondary drowning, or dry drowning, has become a popular thing to warn parents about, mostly because before social media stories, most of us did not know what it was or that it even existed. Thanks to these kinds of stories and articles the Fortins had seen, they decided to be safe and take Charlize to the ER to be checked just in case.
And it’s a good thing they did: Charlize’s test results showed she was indeed at risk of dry drowning.
Desirée describes their experience:
…we had an amazing team of Doctors and Nurses who walked with us through this traumatic experience and helped Charlize recover. She had blood work done and a chest X-Ray. My precious girl was so strong and brave, even saying “cheese” during every x-ray picture. While her lungs sounded great, the X-Ray showed pulmonary endema, which is an indication of inflammation and excess fluid in the lungs, which can lead to secondary or dry drowning. I went numb when the Doctor told us this. We were sent by ambulance to Rady’s Children’s Hospital to be monitored for the night. We arrived there around 3 am.
Fortunately, medical intervention came in time. Fortin describes their time in the hospital:
Ryan and I laid, exhausted, in the hospital bed holding our sweet Charlize as she peacefully slept. I replayed in my head everything that happened over and over. I could not even believe that my daughter almost died, but because of God’s love, grace, and mercy she is alive. I am so thankful for her life.
Charlize was monitored for a full day. And was doing great. Her symptoms never worsened and she was mainly just exhausted.
Because of the warnings of many other parents, the Fortins knew to take Charlize to the hospital to be checked for dry drowning. What a testimony to the power of parents helping each other!
Desirée took some time to reflect on how this terrifying experience impacted her. Her real, raw feelings are something I know every mom can identify with. She says:
This experience was a difficult and painful life lesson. My heart hurts. I feel ashamed and guilty that my daughter was fighting for her life underwater, drowning, and I didn’t even see it. She could have died. The emotions that come with an experience like this are expounding. Not all parents who walk through something like this get to hold their children at the end of the day. My heart grieves for them. Im so thankful for the brave mama’s who have gone before me and shared their own stories of secondary drowning because they are the reason we wanted to take Charlize to the ER to make sure she was okay. While my heart is working through a lot of things right now, I know ultimately, God loves me. He will see me through this. I am a good Mom, but accidents-terrifying accidents that shouldn’t happen, happen.
For anyone feeling the need to say something mean, judge me or the situation itself, express negativity, don’t. I guarantee whatever you have to say, I have felt. An incident like this comes with an array of emotions. Many that I haven’t even processed yet. But I know this was an accident. And my daughter survived. My life changed. I changed.
The Fortins say they were given lots of pool safety advice at the hospital, and Desirée says if and when they finally feel comfortable returning to the pool again, they will implement a new safety rule at private pools:
…it is a great idea to have someone be the “lifeguard” at the pool. Their only job is to watch the pool. They can’t play with the kids, have conversations, go anywhere, etc. And the adults just take turns carrying on this role. We will be implementing this in the future whenever I feel ready to take the kids to the pool again.
I personally 100% agree with this idea and think it is a MUST for any private pool where there is no lifeguard present!
Thank you, Desirée, for opening up and sharing your experience with the near drowning and near dry downing of your child. I know your story will help other parents, just as you were helped. I am thanking and praising God with you that Charlize was spared!