Mom recalls terrifying moment waiting to see if her daughter would breathe again at Rexburg Rapids
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REXBURG — A little girl came close to death Thursday, but the quick thinking of those around her saved her life.
Two-year-old Avery Ballard was spending the hot day with her mom and siblings, taking full advantage of the cool water at Rexburg Rapids. But in moments, that idyllic day turned into a nightmare.
“We got there right when they opened. So we had been there quite a while and were getting ready to leave,” Avery’s mom, Stephanie Ballard, told EastIdahoNews.com.
Ballard said Avery isn’t one to wander off. Avery had stayed close to her in the kiddie area the entire time they were there.
“My son wanted to take her over on the slide, so I told him he could,” Ballard said. “He brought her back. He thought I saw him bring her back.”
But she didn’t see and so Ballard thought her son was watching Avery and her son thought Ballard was watching Avery.
“The next thing — I heard some chaos and he was yelling ‘Mom, it’s Avery. Mom, it’s Avery,'” Ballard said.
Enid Jacobson was in the pool when the chaos broke out. She saw a man pull a little girl out of the water and instinctively followed him to the poolside.
“I hadn’t planned on being at Rexburg Rapids,” Jacobson said. “It was a weird thing that I was even there.”
Jacobson is CPR certified because she takes care of her handicapped brother. But she never expected she’d actually have to use her training.
“I watched the lifeguard because I noticed he wasn’t jumping in,” she said. “There were lots of whistles and shouts and things were going on and he was actively looking for who needed help. I don’t think he realized that the girl was already being pulled from the water and being brought to him.”
When the lifeguards saw Avery, they started yelling for everyone to get back. The man, who hasn’t been identified, laid the little girl on the ground. She wasn’t breathing.
Jacobson said she stayed near the edge of the pool because she is CPR certified and wanted to help if she could.
“I watched for a minute from the side as the lifeguards, with wet hands, were trying to put on gloves. They were struggling. They were shaking and they were struggling,” Jacobson said.
Jacobson told those around her that it looked like foam was coming out of the little girl’s mouth and that she should be rolled over. The man that pulled Avery out of the pool helped Jacobson roll her over, but nothing else came out of her mouth.
“I said to the lifeguards, who were still struggling with their gloves, I said, ‘Do you have to put those on before you start CPR?’ They said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘I’m certified. I’m going to start compressions,'” Jacobson said.
EastIdahoNews.com reached out to Rexburg Rapids regarding its resuscitation policies, but employees said they were not allowed to talk about the incident.
Rexburg city spokesman Scott Johnson has not yet responded to our questions about the incident.
Jacobson said it’s difficult to register how much time passed during the emergency, but that it felt like more than 10 seconds between the time Avery was pulled out of the water to when she began chest compressions.
While administering chest compressions, Avery’s mother made it over to the crowd huddled around her daughter.
“I was just waiting for her to start breathing or coughing or something and when she wasn’t, I just kind of freaked out,” Ballard said.
Ballard said she picked Avery up at one point because it looked like she was trying to vomit. When she turned Avery over nothing came out and she was told to put Avery back on the ground and lay her on her side.
A woman who was next to Jacobson, who hasn’t been identified, suggested giving Avery a couple of rescue breaths.
“The lifeguard bent down and gave her a couple breaths. I put my hands up to do more compressions but right about then, I said, ‘She just took a breath. Her lips are pink. She just took a breath,'” Jacobson said.
She said it wasn’t like what you see in the movies when someone is revived and the person spits up water, coughs and takes long ragged breaths.
“The girl made no sound at all. She just very quietly started breathing again,” Jacobson said.
Jacobson said after Avery started breathing, a law enforcement officer who had arrived bent down and asked her to tell him her name and she did.
“It was good to hear her voice. Then I knew for sure that she was able to breathe,” she said.
Ballard said the experience was terrifying.
“I just thought, ‘She’s going to be ok. She’s going to be ok.’ Then I started thinking, ‘She’s going to start coughing or she’s going to start moving.’ But she wasn’t. She was just blue,” Ballard said. “Even when she started to come to, I kind of felt a little bit of relief but then her eyes would roll back and she’d go limp again. That’s when I realized she could maybe not come out of this.”
Ballard said she believes everyone involved in rescuing her daughter did what they should have done.
“I feel like the lifeguards did what they needed to do. I was glad it was the older people that were more experienced that were working on her,” she said.
Avery was taken to Madison Memorial Hospital where she was checked and kept overnight for observation. She was released Friday and is back home with her family.
“She’s really good. She’s tired but she’s doing really well,” Ballard said. “We couldn’t ask for her to be doing any better, I don’t think.”