MULDROW, Okla. — Sunday afternoon, Cavin Billings and her three children were spending Father’s Day at her parent's home in Muldrow. Cavin was taking a nap with her seven-month-old when the family’s water went out.
Knowing the neighbors were doing some renovations, her father went to the neighbors to investigate. His grandson, Kam – short for Kamren – tagged along for the adventure.
The water was turned off by mistake, and as the adults talked Kam grew bored and asked to go visit the neighbor’s chickens. His grandpa and neighbor said ‘yes’ but then, things went quiet.
“My dad said maybe three minutes went by and he couldn’t hear Kamren anymore,” says Billings. “He started hollering for him and no response. At about that time, he looked up at the pool and him and the neighbor both took off running toward the pool.”
Kam was found facedown in the water. His grandpa quickly got him out and started performing CPR while the neighbor called 9-1-1. It was then, that Cavin was woken up to the news.
“I kind of just went into, I’m going to call it ‘Mom-Mode’ because I just went to my baby,” said Billings.
Kam eventually started to come around, coughing up water as the ambulances arrived on the scene. Billings was allowed to go with her son to the hospital where she heard him speak for the first time since the ordeal.
“His eyes were closed, they were kind of rolling around,” recalled Billings. “He was super lethargic but he said, ‘Mom’ and my heart finally started again.”
Emergency room doctors examined Kam and determined he swallowed a lot of water but believe his body went into shock quickly after falling in. It was that adrenaline response that likely saved Kam’s life.
He was diagnosed with non-fatal drowning which happens when someone cannot breathe normally after being underwater or after breathing water into their lungs. The condition is life-threatening.
After hours of evaluation, Kam and his family were cleared to go home. But Billings said the ordeal still wasn’t over.
“When we got home from the hospital, he immediately started vomiting,” said Billings. Doctors told her this was a normal symptom along with wheezing – x-rays showed no water was in his lungs. However, their concern was to watch for dry drowning which can occur hours after a non-fatal drowning incident.
Billings says she hasn’t slept much since Sunday and still finds herself reliving the accident.
“It’s been all-consuming,” said Billings.
Today, Kam is running around, playing with his big brother and little sister and is almost back to full strength. Billings says her family and the neighbor have talked a lot since Sunday and there is no blame. She says she knows it was a freak accident and even noted that normally there is fencing and gates around the pool – the material had just been taken down due to the renovations. Before they even returned home Sunday night, the neighbors had already put temporary fencing back up.
With the start of summer, Billings says she was days away from signing Kam and his siblings up for swim lessons, something they are all signed up for now.
Infants as young as six-months-old can start taking swim lessons, teaching them how to roll over and float.
Payton Bain is a lifeguard at Parrot Island Waterpark in Fort Smith and says getting kids in lessons could make all the difference – especially in a situation like Kam’s.
“One technique that is really important that you learn first off, is just how to roll over on your back,” says Bain. “Getting that mouth out of the water and being able to breathe fresh air and not breathe in that water is essential whenever you’re about to drown.”
As things heat up, more of us will head to the pool, creek, beach, watering hole, you name it, for ways to cool off. Taking time to learn and practice water safety could be the difference between life and death, especially for little ones.
On Thursday, June, 23 Parrot Island Waterpark is hosting the ‘World’s Largest Swim Lesson’ from 8-9:30 a.m. for kids ages 3 to 17. The event is completely free and will be led by certified lifeguards.
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