Mom describes 5-year-old son’s ‘miracle’ recovery after drowning: ‘Learn from my mistakes so it's not you’

Elise Solé
Maribeth Leeson of Indiana almost lost her 5-year-old son Adam to drowning. She is begging parents to not make her mistakes. (Photo: Courtesy of Maribeth Leeson)

While his family was distracted, a 5-year-old boy drowned while playing in a swimming pool. His mother is sharing every detail of her son’s miracle recovery to avoid a mistake that was “100 percent preventable.”

Maribeth Leeson, 39, a mother-of-five in Tipton, Indiana explained on Facebook that the accident involved her son Adam at a friend’s backyard pool.

“My son drowned 3 days ago. His limp, gray, lifeless body was pulled from the pool and it was every mother's worst nightmare,” she wrote in her post with more than 260,000 likes, 85,000 comments, and more than 350,000 shares. “He was dead. I heard screaming, and after a minute realized the screaming was coming from me. I watched in slow motion as people rushed to him, as he was laid on the concrete, as CPR was started.”

Leeson visited a friend’s pool on July 20 with her husband and their five children; 10-year-old Drew, twin 5-year-olds Adam and Gabe, 3-year-old Miriam and 1-year-old Zachary. While helping her daughter put on her swimsuit by the side of the pool, Leeson saw Adam walk down the pool steps and into the shallow end.

“Adam doesn’t know to swim, but he is a good listener and I told him to stay in the shallow end with his big brother while I grabbed his puddle jumper,” Leeson, a nurse, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “I had a false sense of security.”

But within a few minutes, Adam slipped under the water. “The pool floor was sloped in between the shallow and deep ends and he lost his footing,” she recalls. “Adam slid silently under the water without commotion — there was no splashing.”

When Leeson returned to the pool, she couldn’t see Adam. “Someone said, ‘He got out of the pool’ but that sounded unusual,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Then, I saw his gray shirt under the water and started screaming.”

Adam was pulled from the pool and into the arms of a fellow nurse named Kristen who began applying cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to get blood circulating to Adam’s organs. “I have no idea how long it was. 10 seconds? 3 minutes? I don't know,” Leeson wrote on Facebook. “...He looked awful and perfect still at the same time. I watched as water and vomit poured out of his mouth, eyes swollen and rubbery looking...”

Leeson called the next moment a “miracle.” Adam began vomiting water and bile, however, Kristen couldn’t detect a pulse. After six rounds of CPR, Adam’s eyes fluttered open.

Five-year-old Adam Leeson survived a drowning in a friend's pool when his family was briefly distracted. (Photo: Courtesy of Maribeth Leeson)

The family moved the boy to the pool house and kept him warm until the EMTs arrived. “If we didn’t know CPR, Adam would have been dead by the time the paramedics got to him,” Leeson tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

Adam spend three days in the ICU at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis. By medical definition, Adam officially drowned. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), two children under the age of 14 die each day from drowning. Not all drownings are fatal — the people who survive can suffer from brain damage and subsequent disabilities or remain in a vegetative state, reports the agency.

Adam had gone into full cardiac arrest which stopped his heart, pulse and respirations.

Leeson knows she will be judged harshly for what happened that day. “People said on social media that I was drinking alcohol or distracted by my phone, neither of which are true,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

As she wrote on Facebook, “This was 100% preventable. The fault was MINE. He's a big 5-year-old. He has a very needy twin who makes it easy for me to forget that Adam is still 5 too and has needs that other 5-year-olds need. He's not self-sufficient even though sometimes I feel like he is because he's so capable.”

Because Adam didn’t obviously struggle, no one knew he was in danger. “Drowning doesn’t look like it does in the movies,” Leeson tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

Next week, Leeson and her husband are taking refresher CPR courses and they will invest in private swim lessons for Adam. The family is without health insurance until Thursday, so a group of local moms opened a GoFundMe page to pay for Adam’s hospital bills. The page has raised close to $10,000.

“Please take water safety seriously. I never thought this would be me. It was me, but thanks to God and my dear friend Kristin, my son is still safely here,” Leeson wrote in her post. “Learn from my mistakes so it's not you.”

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