Standing next to my 18-month-old boy Zac, as he floated in the pool, I didn’t take my gaze off him.
For a moment, he seemed to be getting comfortable with lying on his back.
But within seconds he was thrashing about, trying to get the water out of his ears.
‘It’s okay, I’m here,’ I reminded him.
Growing up on the sunny Gold Coast, I’d always been a real water baby.
But I also knew how quickly things could go wrong when someone didn’t know how to swim.
So I decided to become a lifesaver to help others if they got in to trouble.
When I welcomed my older kids, Blaze, 13, Caiden, 11, Lily, nine, and Macy, five, I insisted they have swimming lessons as early as possible.
And when Zac was four months old he began learning too.
Then, one day in February 2018, my four youngest kids and I headed to my parents’ house for a family dinner while my husband Clifton took Blaze to football.
Mum and Dad adored their grandkids and had even set up a toy room at the back of the house for them.
When we arrived, the kids headed straight there while I chatted to my parents.
Around 30 minutes later, my sister, Louise, 43, arrived with her daughter, Lauren, 16.
‘Where’s Zac?’ she asked when she came inside.
‘In the toy room,’ I replied.
But she’d just come from there and when she went to double check, Zac was nowhere to be seen.
Instantly, a sick feeling formed in my stomach.
I hope he’s not near the pool, I panicked.
Although he was getting better at his weekly lessons, Zac was still far too young to be in the water alone.
Rushing out of the house and through the gate of the pool area, I saw Zac’s lifeless body floating belly up in the water.
The gate must have been unlocked, I realised.
That’s when I noticed there were ripples around him in the water, meaning he was still moving or had only just jumped in.
Diving straight into the pool, I saw his tiny face had turned blue and froth was coming out of his mouth.
Incredibly, my lifesaver training kicked in and I began performing CPR.
After blowing five quick breaths into his mouth, I pulled his cold, limp body out of the water.
‘Help!’ I cried.
After two more rounds of CPR, my sister rushed to my side and took over.
Watching as Louise desperately fought to bring my boy back to life, guilt flooded through me.
How could I have let this happen?
Taking over again, I tried once more to resuscitate Zac.
When I looked up, I saw Caiden staring at me – his eyes wide with terror.
‘It’s okay,’ I managed. ‘Just go back inside.’
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I felt the faint beat of Zac’s pulse and relief washed over me.
Placing his frail body into the recovery position, I put my knuckle in his mouth to keep his airways clear, just as I’d been taught.
Biting down on my hand, he seemed like he was regaining consciousness, but he hadn’t opened his eyes.
Thankfully, just a few moments later, paramedics arrived.
Still soaking wet from the pool, I ducked inside to get changed while they loaded him onto the stretcher.
When I returned, Zac was awake but very dazed and confused. He’d coughed up lots of water, but paramedics had stabilised him and put him on oxygen.
‘Mummy’s here. Don’t worry,’ I soothed.
Once on board the ambulance I called Clifton.
Meeting me at the hospital, he gave me a hug.
‘He’s going to be fine,’ he assured me.
While we waited, doctors assessed Zac for brain damage and performed an X-ray to check for water on his lungs.
Incredibly, they came back completely clear.
‘He mustn’t have been in the water very long,’ the doctor said.
I felt like the luckiest mother in the world.
With Clifton heading back home to look after our other kids, I spent the night in hospital with Zac.
Curling up with him in bed, I kept my hand on his chest all night.
When I saw him open his eyes the next day, I felt on top of the world.
Now, two years on, Zac is such a happy but cautious little boy.
He’s grown into a water baby, just like me, and he loves playing footy with his brothers.
While I wouldn’t wish the ordeal on anyone, it has made us much more vigilant as parents and Zac, now three, has learned not to go anywhere near water without supervision.
‘Why don’t you swim without adults?’ I quiz him.
‘Because it’s dangerous,’ he replies.
I’m so thankful that I was trained to perform CPR and I encourage everyone to learn the same skills.
You never know when you might need to save someone’s life.
Toddlers at risk
• Under-fives are the most at risk for backyard pool drownings, with one in three parents admitting that a family member has had
a near drowning experience involving a backyard pool.
• Despite this, new research finds one in three parents are only checking the safety of their pool area once a year
• Faulty pool gates and fences remain a leading cause of drownings in kids under five.
• It only takes a few minutes to check.
To download a safety checklist for pool gates, head to checkyourpoolgate.com.au