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Survival Sunday Story: Tyson's Story and Brandie's Journey

Tragedy can strike at anytime when water is involved. Drowning occurs fast and is silent. That is why it is so important to have multiple layers of protection to preventing children from drowning. This family has taken their miracle of survival and has turned it into a journey to save more lives. Please read Infant Aquatics instructor Brandie Russell's story:

"Hi, my name is Brandie Russell. My husband is Jared and we have 4 kids. Jaciee and Jaliee who are 15-year-old twin girls, Tyson who is 6 and Tynlie who just turned 3.

July 13th, 2016 was just another day. At the time, the twins were 12, Tyson was 3 and Tynlie wasn’t even a year old. I had put Tynlie down for a nap and had the other 3 go outside and play so she could sleep. This is something that they did almost every day and wasn’t out of the ordinary.

We live next door to my in-laws who have an above ground pool that is surrounded by a deck with a deck gate. We had very strong rules about the pool. Anytime Tyson was swimming, or if he was on the deck, he needed to wear his puddle jumper. They were not allowed to swim without an adult outside with them.

On July 13th, the girls decided to hang out on the deck. Because they weren’t swimming, Tyson didn’t have his puddle jumper on.

One thing we were really bad about was leaving toys in the pool.

Jaciee and Jaliee got into a conversation with each other and didn’t realize Tyson had slipped into the pool. From what we think, he was reaching in the pool for a floating toy. They never heard a splash and never saw a struggle. Once he slipped into the pool, it was silent. Drowning doesn’t happen like it shows on TV.

They noticed him floating face down.

Jaliee grabbed him out of the pool and began to perform CPR, the best she could from watching it done on TV. I was in our laundry room getting clothes out of the dryer when I heard Jaciee running to the front door and screaming. As soon as I heard her screams, my heart sank because I knew it was a pool accident.

I ran next door into the backyard. The first thing I saw was Jaliee holding Tyson up by his armpits; his head was dangling, and she was screaming at him to wake up. Jaliee was able to administer CPR well enough that he coughed up water. At 12 years old, they did everything right to save his life.

I took my 3-year-old son, who was blue, limp, and taking only 3-5 breaths a minute and held him tight. I told him over and over that it was going to be okay and how much I loved him. I called my husband and then 911.

I carried Tyson out to the middle of our yard. I screamed out for help and waited for someone to show up. My thought was, the closer I was to the road, the faster they could get to him.

The first responder that showed up was Jared’s cousin, Charlie. Charlie is a part of our town’s Volunteer Fire Department and lives a block away from us.

I handed Tyson over to him and watched them do their job. I prayed for Tyson; I screamed out to God, ‘PLEASE, DON’T TAKE MY BABY!’ I watched them beat on son’s back trying to get him to cry to get more air in his lungs. They were unsuccessful. I watched them check for his pulse with no luck. I watched as the paramedics then took him into and ambulance and told us that we needed to wait outside.

Then it sank it. Everything after that was a blur. I started thinking my son was going to die and it was my fault because I told them to go play outside.

They got him stable enough to transport him to the hospital. He was still unconscious. Jared and I were able to ride in the ambulance with him. I apologized at least 1,000 times about sending them outside to play. Jared reassured me that it was okay, and I had to stop blaming myself.

Once at the hospital, Tyson became even worse. They could not find a vein for an IV. He was poked several times without prevail. His pupils were not responding to light. They had to bag him with oxygen and it still was not enough.

Jared’s sister LeAnne, who is a Nurse Practitioner, made it to the hospital right we asked her to explain to us what was going on and to tell us what all the numbers meant. With tears in her eyes she told us, ‘This isn’t good, and he is not okay.’

Tyson didn’t have any response to the needle sticks, to light checks and was still unconscious, 4 hours later. The doctors started mentioning brain damage. No one knew how long he had been without oxygen. They also mentioned he could have had a stroke. The doctor ordered a CT scan of his brain to check for any damage. When the results came back, we finally got some good news. His brain looked great with no damage!

But we weren’t out of the clear. His little body was fighting way too hard to breathe and his oxygen saturation started to decline. The next step was to put him on life support. We walked by his side with the nurses as they transported him to the ICU unit.

Once there, Jared and I had to wait in the waiting room until they got him in his room and on life support machines. We were told what to expect and to be prepared. I looked at Jared while we were in the waiting room, both of us beside ourselves and I told him that I didn't care what the outcome of our future was going to be. As long as Tyson was still alive, I was okay with it. Jared said to me, 'you have to pray harder!'

A nurse came out and loudly said ‘Tyson’s Parents’ not even 10 minutes after they took him down the ICU hall.

We walked into Tyson’s room expecting to see him on life support but to our surprise, after being unconscious for close to 6 hours, we saw Tyson awake. He wasn’t on any machines, no oxygen and was playing with a hot wheel’s car the doctor and nurses had given him!

He stayed in ICU through the night. Each time his nurse would come in, she would tell us, ‘I keep going through his charts and he should not be awake!’ She told us that if it wasn’t for his medical record, she wouldn’t believe the extent of his accident.

Tyson walked out of ICU and came home exactly 24 hours after drowning. His sisters saved his life!

The night we got home, I began looking into putting Tyson and Tynlie in swim survival classes. I was that mom who never thought her kids would drown. I never thought it would happen to me. Even though we are surrounded by water, I never thought about survival swim lessons. I had never been told the importance of them.

Sadly, the closest trainer to me was 2 hours away.

My heart kept telling me to see what it would take to become an instructor. I felt like Tyson was still alive for a reason.

Just a couple nights after we got home from the hospital, I got the courage to tell Jared (while my heart was pounding out of my chest), ‘I want to become a swim survival instructor. The training is $11,000, what do you think?’ Not even two seconds later, the words I will never forget came out of his mouth, ‘Do it, Babe!’

I contacted Judy, the founder and owner of Infant Aquatics. After speaking with her over a few weeks, I traveled to Colorado to meet her and visit her pool to see the techniques in person! I was AMAZED!!! I sat there the first day and watched babies floating on their backs and toddlers doing swim-float-swim techniques across the pool. It was amazing seeing this in person and was very emotional for me to watch. I kept thinking to myself, ‘if only Tyson knew how to do that!’

Once I returned home to Oklahoma, I committed with Judy and set my training date to begin January 2017.

During my 6 weeks of training in Colorado, Tyson and Tynlie were able to go through private lessons and learn how to swim-float-swim. They graduated from their lessons and I completed my training on February 24th, Tyson’s 4th Birthday.

I became the first certified Infant Aquatics instructor in Oklahoma and starting my own business called Ready, Set, Float! in March 2017.

Because of Tyson’s drowning accident and him making a full recovery, I have been able to teach over 200 kids these lifesaving skills in just a little over 2 years. I wake up every day and love my job!

I will forever be thankful for Tyson still being alive as well as encountering Infant Aquatics!"

Please visit for more information on survival swimming lessons and becoming an instructor. Thank you Brandie for sharing your inspirational story!

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