For young children, there are few things better than a day at the swimming pool. Mother Lacey Grace can certainly attest to that, having watched her four-year-old daughter Elianna playing delightedly in her grandparents’ pool in April 2018. However, a few days later the youngster was rushed to ER.
Born in Catonsville, Maryland, Lacey now lives in Bradenton, Florida with her husband Pat and their two young daughters Elianna and Lexi. On April 14, 2018, the mother visited her parents, taking the former along for a day at their swimming pool. The four-year-old wouldn’t be alone, though, as several other children were there as well.
Elianna enjoyed herself with the other kids, playing around under the watchful gaze of her mother. As time went on, the youngsters then started to have fun with some foam pool noodles, taking advantage of their hollow structure to use them as giant straws and blow water at one another. However, at that point the four-year-old suffered a seemingly innocuous accident.
“Elianna was playing in the pool with a ‘pool noodle’ on Saturday, and as many many children do every day, she was blowing in one end and blowing water out the other,” Lacey wrote on Facebook in April 2018. “By 100 percent freak accident, Elianna put her mouth to blow out at the same time someone blew in the other end, causing the water to shoot directly down her throat.”
“[Elianna] threw up immediately but didn’t really have any other notable things happen,” Lacey continued. “Thirty minutes after the ‘accident’ she was totally fine – normal, playing, eating, etc. The next day, even, she was fine.” However, that all changed on April 16, 2018, as the four-year-old began to show signs of a fever.
For the next two days, Lacey kept a close eye on her young daughter, convinced that she was just suffering from a normal virus. Elianna went back to her classes later that week, but after a few hours her mother received a phone call from school, saying the youngster’s fever had flared up again. At that point, Lacey started to reflect on the incident at the pool in greater detail.
“I kept replaying that pool scene in my head and remembered reading a story last year about a Dad in Texas whose son passed away because he went untreated after inhaling a bunch of pool water,” Lacey wrote. “I wasn’t going to let that be Elianna.” With that in mind, she took her daughter to a walk-in medical centre.
Despite her fears after recalling that tragic incident in Texas, Lacey was still hopeful Elianna’s doctor would put her mind at rest. Unfortunately, though, that didn’t happen. Within 10 minutes of their arrival, she was instructed to take her daughter to the closest emergency room as rapidly as she could.
“[Elianna’s] heart rate was crazy high, her oxygen was low, and her skin was turning purple which suggested chemical infection,” Lacey wrote on Facebook. “[We] went to the nearest ER where they did a chest X-ray and showed inflammation and infection caused from pool chemicals.”
From there, Elianna was transferred to the Sarasota Memorial Hospital by ambulance. Before long, the four-year-old had been diagnosed with aspiration pneumonia, perihilar edema and chemical pneumonitis – technical terms for fluid in the lungs, and their infection and inflammation. As a result, she was hooked up to oxygen tubes to help her respiration.
“They’ve tried to remove the tubes and give her a chance to breathe on her own but her levels drop quickly,” Lacey wrote at the time. “She’s had her second dose of antibiotic but we haven’t seen much relief yet. Her fevers have continued. Her heart rate has lowered so that is the only good news so far.”
Given the severity of Elianna’s condition, Lacey was hailed for her quick-thinking by some of the hospital staff. “At least two doctors now have told us ‘thank God you got her here when you did,’” she recounted. “All the major things going wrong are things you would NEVER notice by looking at her.”
With that in mind, the mother then offered some strong words of advice to other parents, warning them of the potential dangers posed by pool water. “If your child inhales a bunch of water, and something seems off AT ALL, I encourage you to immediately get help,” Lacey wrote.
“I wonder if I would have taken [Elianna to the hospital on] Monday, would she be better off?” Lacey continued. “And I wonder if I waited longer what would have happened. It’s so scary.” Despite earning praise from the doctors for her actions, though, the mom was quick to credit the importance of that heart-rending story from Texas.
“We don’t know how long the road will be but I thank my lucky stars that I read that article of the little boy,” Lacey added. “I will find that article and write that Dad a letter, I promise you. I would have never taken her to the urgent care without that and God only knows how this would have ended.”
Thankfully for Elianna, she was released from hospital four days after first being admitted, as she could now breathe without the aid of the oxygen tube. However, her treatment did continue at home. Unsurprisingly, though, Lacey and her husband subsequently faced some hefty medical bills in the aftermath of the incident, prompting a friend to step up.
Courtney Parrott worked with Lacey in Bradenton. After hearing the Grace family’s sorry tale, she felt compelled to set up a GoFundMe page to help with Elianna’s treatment costs. Setting a target of $15,000, the page has so far earned more than $8,000 in donations since it was created on April 23, 2018.
After taking some time to reflect on what happened, Lacey offered some further advice to moms and dads of younger children. “I don’t want parents to take this story and tell their kids they can’t be a kid,” she told NBC’s news magazine the Today Show in May 2018. “Play with pool toys. Play in the pool. Play in the ocean. Just be aware.”
With that in mind, she then spoke of her own feelings and fears following Elianna’s return from hospital. “When she came home, she was ready to swim almost right away,” Lacey told Today. “So, I’m not gonna stop her. I’m not going to shelter her. And she’s gonna be brave about it. I have to be brave too.”
There are few better family activities than a day at a swimming pool. However, the dangers of “dry drowning” must be kept in mind, especially for youngsters. Thankfully for Lacey Grace, her recollection of one such story saved the life of her unsuspecting daughter.