Terry Walker remembers the flashes of horror when one of his children said, "Paisley's in the pool."
"You don't think, you just run," he said, recalling the afternoon of June 4. "You go 100 miles per hour, and there is your worst nightmare in the pool.
"Emotions aren't even involved at that point."
Paisley is his 2-year-old daughter, who, with siblings, dad, mom and two neighbor children at the house, slipped into the pool with only another child to notice.
Seconds after Walker pulled her out and began first aid, a neighbor, Cary Parker, took over. Then police Officer Erik Grasse. Then paramedics. Then a helicopter to a Phoenix hospital.
Not until she was in flight did her tiny lungs begin to work on their own.
She spent two days in intensive care and another two in a children's ward before doctors released her, warning Walker and his wife that the near tragedy was not over - there might be brain damage.
Paisley is scheduled for follow-up with a neurologist later this summer but seems to be back on track after apparently forgetting some of her toddler lessons while comatose, potty-training and speech patterns among them, Kay Walker said.
"She's 100 percent now," she said as the round-faced toddler on her lap broke into a Cupid-bow smile. "She's going to think her name is Miracle, she's heard it so many times."
Parker and Grasse received life-saving awards from the Mesa Fire Department on June 10, Paisley's second birthday. The girl attended the ceremony.
In a telephone interview later, Parker said matter-of-factly: "It was not her time. Her heavenly father has a mission for her."
Parker and the Walkers attend church together. They share a faith that the child who should have drowned was watched over by forces they don't understand, but know exist.
"I thought she was dead, and the firefighters thought she was dead," Terry Walker recalled. "But we have a faith that she should be here and also that the people who helped her should have been here, too."
The Walkers know Paisley should not have been close enough to the pool to slip in without adult eyes on her. They also know that a fence - now installed - would have kept her out.
"We put that up in about five hours the day Paisley was sent home," Terry said, adding that a late-night work crew of himself, relatives and a neighbor in the pool business did the work.
Along with learning about drowning prevention and hospitals and fences and children, there was personal and family learning, the Walkers say.
"This sounds easy to say, but our perspectives have changed," Terry said. "Our priorities are different now, (and) I think of the pain and suffering she went through because of my lacking.
"Life is too fragile. Our lives will never be the same."
Kay said that since that life-altering day, the family has developed a fire escape plan and has secured potential household poisons, chemicals and cleaners. The plans may spread to others, she said, because the Walkers plan to be involved "in some significant way" in educating other families about child safety.
Meanwhile, Kay said, the chilling details of that day continue to spin through her mind.
"You go to sleep with it; you wake up to it; you think of it 100 times every day," she said, adding that over time, helping others may provide a calm to the memories.
"If you don't do that (help others), you'll go crazy."
While those plans form, Kay said, a truth learned earlier in life has returned full force:
"It's really people that matter," she said quietly. "Friends, neighbors, relatives.
"Holding hands, close your eyes and make a memory."
Kay Walker can smile now while holding daughter Paisley. But the mood was different the day Paisley nearly drowned.
--> More than 300 children drown each year in the United States in residential swimming pools.
--> Phoenix leads the nation for immersion/drowning incidents.
--> In 10 states -- Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Hawaii, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington -- drowning surpasses all other causes of death in children aged 14 and under.
-->Arizona's rate of child drownings dropped dramatically after passage of a pool fencing law in 1990.
--> Drowning is the second-leading cause of death in young people ages 1 to 24 and the seventh-leading cause of death in adults older than 24.
--> Seventy percent of all preschoolers who drown were being supervised by one or both parents at the time.
--> Twenty-five percent of all drowning victims have had swimming lessons.
--> Approximately 2,000 children under 5 years old are seen in hospital emergency rooms each year because of near drownings.
--> For each child who drowns, four are hospitalized for nearly drowning.
--> One-third of children unconscious when arriving at a medical facility will suffer significant brain damage.
--> The average annual care cost for a chronically impaired near drowning victim is $100,000.
Reproduced with permission from:
The Arizona Republic
Byline: By Chuck Hawley
©Copyright 1999 Arizona Republic
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