Chris Miles didn’t think twice when she left her 2-year-old grandson Nathan playing alone at her coffee table last August while she went upstairs to make some beds.
When she came back downstairs a few minutes later, one of Nathan’s cousins asked where the little boy had gone.
“Fear struck my heart,” Miles said Friday at a water safety news conference hosted by Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital.
“When I didn’t find him in the house, I charged outside.”
The surface of the family pool appeared calm at first, but as Miles approached, she spotted Nathan face down in the water. She jumped in, grabbed him and tipped his head back and began to blow into his mouth. When water stopped coming out of his mouth, she began to do heart compressions and screamed for help.
Her daughter ran outside and called 911. The operator guided Miles and her daughter through the proper way to administer CPR while they waited for the paramedics to arrive.
“I had to make that horrible call to my son and daughter to tell them what happened,” Miles said, her voice cracking.
When parents Todd and Allie Miles reached the ER, they found Nathan alive and screaming. By the end of the day he was speaking in full sentences.
Chris Miles’ quick action in responding to the situation had worked in what the family now calls their “miracle.” Now a happy, energetic 3-year-old, Nathan made a full recovery and isn’t even afraid of the water.
“We feel so grateful that we got lucky, that it was a miracle, because not all families get this lucky and get to have this perfect outcome we experienced,” said Allie Miles.
The family partnered with Intermountain Health Care to tell their story to reporters in order to help raise awareness about the dangers water can pose to children as summer approaches, along with warnings of possible flooding of Utah rivers in the coming weeks.
Drownings are the second leading cause of death for Utah children through age 14, said Jessica Strong, community health manager at Primary Children’s Hospital. Children less than 1 year old are most likely to drown at home in buckets or bathtubs, while children 1 to 4 years old are most likely to drown in swimming pools. Older children are most likely to drown in open water sources such as rivers and lakes.
“If a child is missing, check [the] water first… that’s where the minutes can count,” Strong said, commending Chris Miles’ decision to race outside and look in her pool.
Adult supervision is one of the most important safety measures for all types of water, Strong said. She advised pool owners to have secure covers and locked gates around pools to prevent children from falling in. Families with kiddie pools should empty the pools and turn them upside down when not in use, Strong said. The hospital advises all adults to learn CPR, but especially if they own a pool.
Coast Guard-approved lifejackets are also important for small children in pools and for everyone in outdoor water sources, said Strong, who noted that “water wings” and other floating devices are not sufficient protection.
“Teach children to stay away from water when hiking or camping,” Strong said. “The rivers are going to be very fast and full and cold — and that can be deadly,”
If children do fall into outdoor water sources, Strong said parents should not go in after them as they risk endangering themselves. Instead, adults should call 911 and use the “reach or throw method” to reach the child with a branch or rope.
Reflecting on Nathan’s experience, Todd Miles advised parents to be cautious with children around water.
“Thirty more seconds and [Nathan] could have been gone,” Miles said. “You need to respect the water.”