Local family shares cautionary story about water safety

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — With spring heating up and summer quickly approaching, there’s no better way to beat the heat than splashing into a pool.

However, a local family warns that water fun can quickly turn into a dangerous situation.

In July 2020, then-three-year-old Zion nearly drowned in the family pool.

“Right after we left the front yard from throwing water balloons, we couldn’t find Zion, so the first thing we always think of is the backyard. So, I ran outside and we found him floating in the pool,” said Maria Chavez, Zion’s mom.

Zion wasn’t breathing and had no pulse. Immediately, they called 911 and started CPR until first responders arrived.

“I didn’t know what to do. They sent me inside, so I got on my knees and I started praying,” Chavez said.

Her prayers were answered that day. Zion survived but spent more than 100 days in the hospital, many in a coma.

“They said his thalamus was damaged and wouldn’t even wake up. Even if he did, he’d probably never hold his head up, talk eat by mouth, basically in a vegetative state, but I was not going to accept that,” Chavez explained.

Zion didn’t accept that either. Now six years old, he can laugh, smile and play. However, he’s still relearning how to talk, eat and walk on his own.

A case like this is a miracle. Unfortunately, it’s also something pediatricians see far too often this time of year.

“Some of the statistics show that drownings happen across the United States up to ten times per day. They certainly increase during the summer months, especially on weekends, holidays and things like that,” said Matthew Gunderson, a pediatric emergency physician at UNMH.

As Zion’s family can tell you, it all happens in a matter of seconds and without warning.

“From movies and TV shows, we get the idea that when drowning the person’s head is above the water, they are screaming, they are thrashing around, they are yelling for help. And in the TV shows, the lifeguard heroically runs into the water and saves them. The reality is, most drowning events are silent,” Gunderson said.

Dr. Gunderson says constantly supervising your children while they’re in or near the pool is one of the most important things you can do to keep them safe.

Zion still has a long road to recovery with more treatments and therapies to come. His family has a GoFundMe set up, which you can find here.