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Nurses Urge Water Safety Precautions after Saving Own Son’s Life in Near Drowning

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Nurses Urge Water Safety Precautions after Saving Own Son’s Life in Near Drowning

Other than birth defects, drowning is the most frequent cause of death in children between one and four years of age, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s the summer season and parents need to be extra mindful of young children near swimming pools.

In February, husband and wife nursing couple, Mike and Hilary Zunde, faced their worst nightmare. Hilary had gone inside the house to put a band-aid on her three-year-old and thought her 18-month-old-son Zachary was right behind her. After a frantic search, she was horrified to find him floating face down in their spa. His face was pale and cool, and he was not breathing or responsive. They immediately pulled him from the water and Mike called 9-1-1 while Hilary began chest compressions.

“As ICU nurses, Mike and I went through the actions we knew were necessary to resuscitate someone, but I remember never feeling so helpless in my entire life,” Hilary recalled. “I broke down staring at what I thought was my son’s lifeless body; sobbing at the thought of never seeing his beautiful eyes, sweet smile or hearing his hearty giggles.”

By the time the ambulance arrived, Zachary had a pulse. He was transported to Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center (PVHMC), where Mike Zunde works as a Trauma Intensive Care Unit nurse. Zachary was intubated and stabilized, then airlifted to a local children’s hospital.

“Mike and I kept thinking worst case scenario: anoxic brain injury, organ damage, a lifetime of disability,” said Hilary. “But God truly said: ‘That is not Zack's story’."

After 12 hours in the ICU, Zack’s breathing tube was removed. He began to cry when he saw his parents.

“When I heard Zack’s first cry, I sobbed because it was a sound I wasn’t sure I was ever going to hear again,” said Hilary. “God never once lifted his hand from protecting Zachary.”

Zack was a fighter and recovered quickly, spending just two nights in the hospital. His recovery was full and miraculous.

“I was fully prepared to quit my job and never return to nursing when this happened, says Hilary. “Being on the patient side made me realize how important the work we nurses do is and the huge difference a compassionate nurse can make to the family/patient.”

The Zundes can’t stress water safety enough. Mike says, “kids are smart; they watch you open locks and they learn, too. Never leave them unattended around a pool.”

“This is difficult for me to talk about, but if doing so keeps even one child safer around water, it will be worth the effort,” Hilary said.

Dr. Michael Jimenez, medical director of the Trauma Center at PVHMC, says there are many ways to protect your children this summer. He suggests:

  • Fence your pool
  • Make sure someone is always a designated lifeguard at pool parties
  • Get CPR training
  • As long as children are outdoors, make sure they keep their floatation devices on.

“This can happen at any time and any where,” says Dr. Jimenez. “Many drownings tragically occur at family events. The best way to prepare for the worst thing to happen is to be trained on what to do when the worst thing happens.”

Where to Learn CPR:

  • Friends and Family CPR classes are offered at PVHMC once a month. Call 909.865.9858 to learn about class dates and to register.
  • American Heart Association
  • American Red Cross
  • Many City and School Districts offer CPR – check your city or school website for information.