"Why Did I Go?" Kourtney's Story
Updated: Feb 9
As I sat at my desk locked away from the rest of the house, writing papers and doing power points on the weekends for my master’s degree program in early 2017, I would get texts from my husband, Jeff, with photos of him and the girls out having a great time together. I was realizing that there was something missing in those moments...me.
They were growing up, and I was missing those pivotal moments. I desperately wanted what he had with them. So, I decided it was time to take a break from school for a while. The summer of 2017 was going to be our time together. We were going to have SO MUCH FUN!
In April, Kourtney’s preschool class had an Easter party. I never made it to any of those events typically because I work full time, but somehow, I made it to this one! Kourtney had an absolute blast and was overjoyed to show me all the fun art projects she made.
Later that month, we spent time with our family at one of the Japanese festivals. All the cousins decided to match each other that day.
Then, the carnival came to town at the end of the month! We went as a family and had a blast! That night, we decided we had to make this a yearly tradition.
The fun continued throughout the month of May. Birthday parties, gymnastics, and even ‘swimming’ in our hot tub.
Then came June. Big sister Kayleigh graduated from pre-school, daddy took the girls to Gilroy Gardens, fun at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, more gymnastics, and then, a family reunion!
June was busy, but we were loving every minute of it. Spent time at a friend’s pool, went to the beach, and to a drive in movie (in which Kourtney slept through). We were making some incredible memories.
July would be no different...until it wasn’t.
Then came THE day. The day that I still find myself questioning WHY DID I GO??
Earlier in June, I received a Facebook invitation from an old high school friend (now more of an acquaintance through Facebook) to go to her daughter’s annual pool party. The party was held at my old friend’s mom’s house - the same house we spent many weekends at throughout high school.
I had never gone before, but for some reason, this year my thought process was a little different. I was intently making it a point to get out and do more things with the girls. The mom guilt of being a full-time working parent on top of going to school was weighing heavily on my heart at that time, so the invitation intrigued me more than normal. I would call myself a homebody normally, but this summer, I was going to be different for my girls.
It was Saturday, July 15. The girls had gymnastics that morning. My phone's photo app outlined the morning for me:
· The first video of the morning, I have of the two of them playing together is in their bedroom; they are wearing their leotards and Kourtney is spinning Kayleigh around in an office chair. Kayleigh tells her, “Go Faster”!
· The next video, Kourtney is sitting in my lap at gymnastics. We are watching Kayleigh get to jump on some sort of apparatus used for training, but to her it is just fun! You can hear Kourtney’s little voice, “Look at Kayleigh, mom! She goes higher and higher!”
We got home and were relaxing for a bit before it was time to leave to go to the pool party. Jeff had not been feeling well for the past week or so, so I was going to take the kids by myself. All morning, I kept telling Jeff I wasn’t sure I even wanted to go. As the time drew closer to the actual event, the more I didn’t want to go. However, Kayleigh kept asking when we were going to the pool party. I didn’t want to disappoint her, so I decided to stop being lazy and just go.
The event started at noon, but I was running late. At 1:06pm, I received a text asking where we were. I told her we were coming, but I was waiting on some laundry to finish before I could leave. At 2:17, I got another text “did u get lost”. I remember looking at that text as I was beginning to unbuckle Kourtney from her car seat in front of the house. The girls and I walked through the house to the back-yard pool area where we were greeted by my friend, her mom, and many others I hadn’t seen in a very long time. It was a very hot day, so it wasn’t long before we decided we needed to join them in the pool.
We were in the pool for about an hour before some other friends of ours, Sam and Megan, whom I hadn’t seen in a few years, came with their daughter. We continued to swim and talk to them for a while, catching up.
Shortly after the photo above, Kourtney started to get cranky. I figured she was getting hungry and I should probably take her out to eat and go potty. We exited the shallow end of the pool. We stopped at the edge to take Kourtney’s puddle jumper off since we were going to be going into the house. It was really sticking to her, so Sam helped me remove it and I left it sitting beside the pool. I proceeded to take Kourtney inside to go potty. When she was done, we walked back outside, and I asked her if she wanted to eat. I made her a plate of fruit, and I sat her in one of the chairs at the table. I stood behind her chair as Sam and I talked.
When she was finished, I helped her off of the chair and onto the ground. Mid conversation, Kourtney’s little hand was at my knee, interrupting me and repeating mommy, mommy, mommy. I answered her in that under your breath kind of talk and said “what”, but still didn’t really break my focus to get me to pay attention to her. OH HOW I SHOULD HAVE PAID ATTENTION!!!!!
She was asking me something about going back into the pool. I told her “yes baby” in a rushed, quit bothering me tone, but with the FULL INTENT of us going back in together, just as we were the whole afternoon. But she was 3. She didn’t know that my permission was contingent on me going with her. She didn’t know that my permission meant in a few minutes when I was done talking. She didn’t realize she needed to have her floatie back on. I was facing the pool, and Sam was in front of me with his back to it. Something caught his eye, forcing him to turn to look behind him. It took him a second to register what he was seeing. The next thing I knew, Sam slapped my left shoulder, pushing me to look over at the pool and said, “Is she ok?”
There she was. My baby girl, floating face up in the water, with a circle of about 5 kids surrounding her. Her skin was purple. No, no, no, no, no! I screamed “No, get her!” Sam jumped into the pool and pulled her out. He slipped, but somehow landed her on a lawn chair.
My mind was racing. I yelled, call 911! but somewhere in my mind I was rationalizing saying, we got her, she’s going to be ok, eventhough I knew she wasn’t.
Someone started CPR.
What happened between that time and the ambulances arriving is a bit of a blur. I remember watching the CPR and being dissatisfied, so I took over. Someone else brought over a cell phone with the 911 operator on it, telling me a bunch of steps I already knew or had done. I was getting angrier because they just weren’t helping. They kept telling me to check her mouth for choking. The chest compressions were forcing the food up that she had just eaten, but to everyone around, it looked like she was vomiting. All I kept thinking was that I had to stay on her chest.
After what felt like an eternity, the medics finally arrived and took over. The ambulance left and wouldn’t let me ride with them. I ran into the house to get out of my wet clothes and tell Kayleigh I was leaving. She was inside a bedroom on a bed, watching a movie someone had put on for the kids to distract them from what was going on outside. I told her I was going to go to the hospital to see Kourtney.
She looked up to me with her sad, big brown eyes, and said, “Is Kourtney dead?” HOW ON EARTH DO YOU ANSWER THAT QUESTION TO A 5-YEAR-OLD! All I could say was “I don’t know, but mommy is going to the hospital to be with her”.
In the midst of all the commotion, someone had called Jeff and told him there was an accident and to meet me at the hospital. I met him in some triage room where we waited for a few minutes. Then someone came to get us. They brought us to the room where they were still working on Kourtney. I remember seeing the clock. It was 5:15pm.
The doctor started to tell us that they had been working on Kourtney for some amount of time and... I just said No. I knew what she was going to say, and I said “No, you aren’t stopping yet”. She tried to reason with me and I just kept saying that miracles do happen and it wasn’t time yet.
Within the next 15 minutes, we did get a pulse back. But, she couldn’t sustain it without epinephrine. Her heart rate continued to slow, and I finally told the doctor it was ok to stop. I think it was around 6pm. There was no miracle that day.
Why do I share this? Because it is raw, and it is real, and it happens every single day. We get so comfortable and tell ourselves, ‘that will never happen to me’. The truth is, it does.
There are so many ‘ifs’ that swirl around my head every single day. But one thing I know for sure is that if Kourtney knew how to float, she could have saved herself that day when I failed her. I took comfort in the fact that there were so many people there. I made assumptions that because of that, nothing could possibly happen without it being seen.
I was WRONG on so many levels. I didn’t know drowning was silent. I didn’t know that the puddle jumper she wore gave her muscle memory and a false sense of security that if she stood upright, she would be ok. I didn’t know that a pool surrounded by 20+ people didn’t mean no one would drown. I didn’t know that drowning is the leading cause of accidental death in children ages 1-4.
I didn’t know a lot of things then, but I sure as hell want to do what is in my power to prevent this from happening to another family.
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