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  • Writer's pictureNatalie Jones Pantaleon

Sunday Survival Story. Parents used CPR to save daughter!

This message was generously shared by Paul & Kristina Kieffer, who used CPR to revive their daughter after a drowning accident. Read on to learn about what all parents need to know about protecting their children from drowning.

PJ and I hardly discuss this story outside of ourselves. We’ve carried a lot of pain, anxiety, guilt and shame but pray this story might help save a life.

One year ago today July 4th 2018 we almost lost Ellis Lea. We were at a neighbor’s pool party celebrating the 4th of July. We had gotten very comfortable with using her floaty and we had not put her in swim lessons. In our minds we were going to but we thought it could wait. Ellis asked me to take off her floaty and take her to the restroom. After she was done using the restroom I got caught up saying goodbye to some friends that were leaving. Ellis slipped out of the back door without her floaty on. We had been to this friends house so many times before. Ellis knew that before she got in the water she had to have her floaty on. By the time I got back outside most of the party crowd was under the awning because it had started raining. As I was making my way through all of the sudden I heard screaming and hysteria.

I saw a little tiny body laying on the concrete edge of the pool. Her round swollen blue face, her lifeless body. One of Quinn’s friends saw her at the bottom of the pool, dove in and pulled her out. At first glance I thought that’s not Ellis, that can’t be Ellis. Then my brain immediately recognized the bathing suit that we picked out together. She is dead I thought. At that instant I felt my life was over. I went to her and started CPR. I had this overwhelming feeling come over me that it wasn’t working and that she was already dead. I froze. I literally could not move other than to scream. PJ ran over as I was screaming up to the sky “OH MY GOD. Ellis, no, don’t die. Jesus don’t take her.” PJ continued CPR and after a few rounds she finally began to cough and vomit. PJ rolled her onto her side and another father there reached into her mouth to clear her airway. PJ yelled “someone call 911!” Ellis began to regain color in her face and let out this SCREAM . A scream I had never heard before. It was a scream for air but also a scream for life. I scooped her up and screamed with her. I looked around and was embraced by several people. I saw faces filled with tears and panic. I ran to the driveway where I was met by police officers and EMT. They told me that they needed to take her to the hospital and that only one of us could ride in the ambulance. The reality of what just happened began to overcome me. They cut her bathing suit off and began to give her oxygen and covered her with blankets. They let me climb in the back before they took off. I heard them call to the hospital that we would be arriving in 8 minutes. I remember laying against one of the EMTs in the truck while trying not to get sick. He let me hold the oxygen mask on Ellis’s face. When we arrived at the hospital there were so many people waiting for us. So much commotion, so many people in one room. A physician was asking a lot of questions and said Ellis wasn’t getting enough oxygen and said they may have to intubate her. They started her on a bipap breathing machine, IVs, warming blankets and a neck brace. PJ got there and we began praying for God to heal her. PJ laid his rosary across her body as we prayed Hail Mary. Ellis looked at us and said through the oxygen mask I want to go home. I felt then that she was going to be ok. One of the doctors kept saying she’s not out of the woods and that she was very lucky. Lucky to be alive, lucky that there didn’t seem to brain damage. They moved Ellis from the ED to another floor. We spent the rest of the day getting scans, blood tests, X-rays etc. At night the flashbacks overwhelmed me. We all tried getting some rest but I could not unsee Ellis’s lifeless body by the pool.

The next few months were very painful. Ellis had inhaled so much water that several days after she got discharged from the hospital she came down with pneumonia. We all had nightmares almost every night. Thankfully Jude and Reese didn’t see what had happened however Quinn saw the entire event. Ellis, Quinn and I spent several months in counseling trying to work through our fear, pain and anxiety.

There is not one day that goes by that I don’t feel crippled by the “what if”. Each day I embrace Ellis with a grateful heart knowing she’s still with us.

Did you know that the number one -NUMBER ONE-cause of accidental death for children, ages 1-4 is from DROWNING?

Thankfully a few months ago God connected a friend of mine with someone’s family who had just suffered a near drowning experience. Through this meeting my friend learned about a program called Infant Swimming Resource (ISR). By this time I was ready and able to hear about ISR. Ellis has been in the ISR program for the last 7 weeks. To say it’s been hard would be an understatement. Our ISR instructor, Tracy Wheeler, has been amazing. She has walked this painful journey with us. Tracy has given me the ability to look at a pool without panicking, to drive over a body of water without an awful pit in my stomach. Ellis is learning skills that she can use to save herself. These lessons have given me hope and peace.

Please, please, please, if you have children, learn CPR, designate a pool watcher and put your kiddos in swim lessons!! Not all swim lessons are equal! ISR teaches children not only how to swim but more importantly swimming survival skills. There are scholarships for children who have suffered a near drowning experience that required CPR and for families who need help financially.

Please share this post with others ❤️

The PPCD thanks to Paul & Kristina Kieffer, for sharing this story and the importance of implementing a system of layers of protection. In this story, CPR saved Ellis's life. We are so grateful for that. Kristina also highlights the importance of teaching our children the skills they need to survive in that environment. For more info on a what to look for in your child's swim lessons, please visit

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