Mom recounts watching as her son nearly drowned
It was all in slow motion.
Maribeth Leeson watched as her 5-year-old son was pulled from her friend’s swimming pool. He was limp and lifeless. She was sure he was dead.
How long did her friend perform CPR? Ten seconds? A few minutes? She isn’t sure.
The pool was full of adults. Not one noticed that Adam was struggling. Leeson first thought he was playing.
He wasn’t. He was underwater, gasping for air, shouting for his mom.
They’re now home in Tipton, Ind. after three days in Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis. Adam is facing no injuries, his mom said, other than shortness of breath and coughing with too much physical activity.
His mother summarized his near-death experience and how it could have been prevented in a Facebook post that has been shared more than 165,000 times.
She says she wants to help others avoid a tragedy like the one she was so close to enduring, Leeson told IndyStar. It can happen at any moment, even if you’re just feet away, she said.
He ‘tried to yell Mommy!’
Authorities were dispatched at 4:57 p.m. July 20 on a report of a drowning at a Cicero home.
“He said he kept going to the bottom then to the top and tried to yell Mommy!’ ” Leeson wrote. “It kills me to hear that. It kills me to know that his last thoughts were that mommy didn’t come for him.”
A friend began performing CPR on Adam before emergency personnel arrived. His eyes were swollen and rubbery, his mom wrote on Facebook. “He looked awful and perfect still at the same time.”
She wrote about the rush of thoughts in her mind as the accident unfolded. How was she going to tell her husband about this?
Her 10-year-old son? “His life is ruined because he just watched his brother die.”
And Adam’s twin? “How could his life go on without his twin?” she wondered.
He was almost one of more than 3,500 people who die of unintentional drownings every year. His mother wrote that the incident was “100% preventable.”
Things will be different now
She never thought her children could drown in front of other adults, she wrote. Adam is a capable 5-year-old, but not self-sufficient, she said.
Leeson knows he didn’t get into the pool with his safety device. She told him to stay on the shallow end. She thought he would be fine for five minutes, while she put his sister’s swimsuit on.
Things are going to be different now.
Adam Leeson, 5, nearly drowned on July 20 while in a swimming pool with other adults. His mother, Maribeth Leeson, is using his near-death experience to teach others about how to prevent tragic drownings before they happen. (Photo: Provided by Maribeth Leeson)
Adam has already asked to return to his friend’s house and go swimming again, she wrote. But now, he’ll wait for his mother before going into the pool. He’s also experiencing anxiety that he didn’t before, she said.
“I feel so responsible (I am responsible!) because I let him get in without any sort of safety device on, and he was in before I personally was ready to watch him,” she wrote on Facebook.
‘This happened to save others’
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says formal swimming lessons reduce the risk of drowning in children 1 to 4 years old. The CDC also recommends learning CPR, designating an adult to watch young children in the water and making children swim with a buddy.
March 15, 2014 is the day Adam Leeson was born. Leeson will remember July 20, 2019, as the day he was saved.
“I feel this happened to save others,” Leeson wrote. “In my heart of hearts, I know other parents need to read this.”
A GoFundMe to pay for Adam Leeson’s medical expenses has raised nearly more than $5,000 of its $10,000 goal as of Thursday night. Leeson said on Facebook that her family’s health insurance does not begin coverage until Aug. 1.
Andrew Clark is a reporter for IndyStar. Call him at 317-444-6484 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Clarky_Tweets.