‘The words hit me like a truck, ‘Gabby fell into the pool and she isn’t breathing.’: Aunt urges parents to know pool toys give ‘false feeling’ of safety after niece’s near-fatal swimming accident

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“Everyday people wake up like any other normal day. A lot of the times we forget to be thankful for waking up each day even though we all remind ourselves to not take our lives, our families, our friends and our possessions for granted. You wake up, get your day set and you don’t think you’re going to go through one of the worst days of your life, until you do.

This story comes from an aunt of a precious little girl who’s life changed in the matter of minutes.

It was the night of June 7, 2019. I had woken up, started my day and went to work. It was a Friday, so the moment you’re off the clock you get excited for the two free days ahead of you. I stopped at a friend’s house and I was getting home later than I usually would have. I always called my mom on my way home from work, but she wasn’t answering when I called, so for some reason I felt the need to call my brother, Tim. When I spoke with him, he mentioned he was at a friend’s house with his kids and they were hanging out and swimming with a few other children. I heard my nieces and nephews playing in the background and I never thought that would be one of the last times I would hear Gabby’s little voice.

Courtesy Becca Hodge

Upon hanging up the phone, he said he’d be home soon and that the kids were going to sleep over at my mom and dads like they did every weekend. My mom called me back and we chatted about our day’s and I had planned on going over to her house after I had run home to switch laundry. While on the phone with my mom, she mentioned a cardinal stopped outside their house and was just looking at her and she felt like her grandma was visiting her and to this day I believe she was preparing her for the phone call she was going to get in the matter of minutes. I arrived at my house and as I was doing laundry I heard loud honking outside of my house, at the time I didn’t know why that was happening, but today, I believe there’s little signs to get your attention that we don’t understand at that exact moment but eventually it ends up making sense.

I received a phone call from my mom seconds later, and I could not understand a word that was being said. I rushed to her house and the words hit me like a truck, ‘Gabby fell into the pool and she isn’t breathing.’ It replays in my head to this day and I will never forget that feeling. You see, Tim has three children, Alex, Gabby and Lilly. If I could have picked out what Tim was meant to do and be, that would be a dad. These kids are the world to him and his wife, Paula.

The kids were swimming in the pool and Tim and his friend got all the kids out of the pool to have food. They took off their floaties, they helped each child get food and eat. Once the kids were done eating, they all went by the swing set and were playing. Tim was sitting across from the pool helping his littlest, Lilly cut a hot dog. At this moment, Gabby walked over to the pool and climbed up the ladder and may have reached for a toy and fell in. Once Tim and his friend saw her, they grabbed her from the pool and started doing CPR.

When they teach you CPR courses, you feel confident that you could do it if the time ever came but you never think you’re going to have to use it on your four year old daughter.

Gabby was taken to St Joes Hospital by ambulance. At that moment, Tim didn’t know if he was going to see his daughter again, but with the power of prayer and God, Gabby’s heart started beating and they told Tim she was breathing. The doctors told Tim and Paula they were airlifting her to Lurie Children’s hospital and that they couldn’t fly with her.

When my mom and I arrived at the house to pick up my nephew and niece the look on the cops and paramedics faces told it all. The day Gabby fell into the pool, it changed a lot of people’s lives.

Gabby spent 71 days in the ICU.

Courtesy Becca Hodge

Tim and Paula were told many heartbreaking things throughout these 71 days.
They were told, she couldn’t hear them as they spoke to her and played music for her.
They were told she would never breathe on her own.
They were told she would need a catheter for the rest of her life.
They were told she would never be able to move.
They were told she would have a 3 in 100 chance of surviving the seizures she was having.
But, they were also told that they didn’t know how she was able to beat all of that, but I know the power of prayer has helped her get this far.

I can tell you that even when you think you’re having the worst day(s) of your life, God is with you. We had over thousands of people praying, some that didn’t even believe in a religion. There is no way Gabby would be here today without the work of God and prayer.

Gabby and her family were given the opportunity and blessing to go to New Orleans to do HBOT. Gabby is halfway through her treatments and is doing two other therapy treatments on top of HBOT. Gabby has learned how to move her eyes together and focus in small segments of time. She has been coughing at times on her own and her little body is relaxing more and more allowing her arms and legs to bend. Gabby has been touched by her guardian angel and God is working miracles in her.

Courtesy Becca Hodges

The town of Lockport has come together more than our family could have ever expected and because of all the donations and fundraisers held, Gabby’s family has been able to give her the help she needs.
Gabby still has a long road ahead of her but with the power of prayer, we believe she’ll keep fighting and progressing.

I would like to leave off on this:

Please don’t have your children use floating devices in the water; they give a false feeling of being able to stay afloat in the water.

Please don’t leave toys in your pools, children may try to grab something and end up falling in.

Please put ladders up, close deck doors, and make sure there is a safety mechanism on your pool so kids do not have an easy access to the water.

Drowning is silent and is known for more deaths among children 1 to 4 years of age than any other cause.

If this has happened to you please remember that accidents happen. No parent is perfect, and no one asks for something this tragic to happen to their child. Most drowning accidents happen when there’s more adults nearby and they believe someone else is watching the child.

Lastly, remember to be your child’s voice. Be strong for them and stand tall in the decisions you feel are right. Tim and Paula both have fought hard for Gabby and without their gut instincts, Gabby wouldn’t be as far as she is today. Doctors study medicine and just because they tell you what they think may happen, doesn’t mean that’s your fate.

Let’s end this terrible stigma and keep our children safe.”

Courtesy Becca Hodges

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Becca Hodges, 26, of Lockport, Illinois. Follow Gabby’s journey through the Facebook page Go Pink for GabbyDo you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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