Nora’s near-drowning inspires swimming safety
The Trotman family gathered with friends on June 21, 2020, to celebrate Father’s Day and a buddy’s birthday. Joy and laughter filled the afternoon as kids splashed in the above-ground pool. When swimming wrapped up, the party moved inside for a bit before the kids headed back out with a few adults for cupcakes. After cupcakes, everyone went back in the house – except 2-year-old Nora.
Nora’s mom, Katie, was just finishing feeding the baby inside. As the others started filing back in, something didn’t feel right.
“I actually heard a voice in my head say, ‘Where’s Nora?’ Then I heard it say, ‘Nora’s in the pool,’” Katie recalled.
After glancing around the room, they checked the pool and there she was – floating lifelessly. Nora’s dad pulled her out as quickly as possible, but there was no heartbeat. They immediately called 911 and the two nurses at the party began administering CPR.
Quick action and the best PICU care for Nora
The Hanover Fire Department arrived in eight minutes. They intubated her and got her pulse back, but the outlook was grim as Nora remained blue, cold to the touch and unresponsive on the ride to the hospital. When she first arrived at our Level 1 pediatric trauma center, Nora reached up to pull out her breathing tube – the first sign of movement, and promise.
Nora spent the first eight of her 17 days at the hospital in our pediatric intensive care unit, where she continued with breathing support. The neurologist explained to Nora’s parents that test results indicated she likely had brain damage, which would make balance – including sitting up and walking – very difficult. It was tough news to hear and prompted the Trotmans to pray harder, along with supporters across the world who had heard about Nora through friends of friends, and so on.
Amidst visitation restrictions due to COVID, Nora’s parents leaned on the support of their CHoR team.
“I loved our nurse Amie-Anne. She was the first person to give me hope during Nora’s recovery. She really knew what to look for and always went the extra mile to make Nora comfortable,” said Katie.
Amie-Anne Talley was touched that they remembered her for making a difference.
“Nora came to the PICU in critical condition. I remember talking with Nora's family and explaining everything I did while I worked to keep her comfortable. I also remember the day Nora had her breathing tube removed yet she was still not the Nora her family knew. She wasn't speaking and she had no interest in eating. Eventually, a feeding tube was placed, and Nora made huge strides when she transitioned to acute care,” said Amie-Anne. “I love what I do, and I feel very privileged to have cared for both Nora and her family. Nora truly is a rock star!”
Two medical residents made a particularly positive impact in the PICU too. At Katie’s request, they regularly called her cousin – who attended VCU School of Medicine and currently practices medicine in California – to explain Nora’s progress and treatment plan, allowing him to ask questions and offer input. As Nora got better and moved from the PICU to acute care, the residents continued to visit her, and she loved every minute of it.
“In the worst time of my life, I was comforted being at CHoR. I don’t think I would have been that comfortable anywhere else. I never felt like Nora was overlooked and they always had what was best for her in their mind,” added Katie. “They became like another family while we were there.”
Happy, healthy days ahead
Nora went home from the hospital on July 8, still with a feeding tube and with physical therapy and occupational therapy at our Brook Road Campus ahead of her. She did so well, that she checked out of those quickly. The best news? There was no brain damage as initially suspected!
Just over a year after her drowning accident, Nora has started preschool. She eats chicken nuggets instead of getting nutrition through a feeding tube. She also loves pretending to be a ninja, digging in the dirt, playing outside and, ironically, swimming.
This is due in large part to the survival swim lessons Katie signed her and two of her sisters up for as soon as she was able.
“These lessons teach infants and kids how to survive if they find themselves in a drowning situation. Even my one year old can flip over and get air if she needs to. It’s more than just having fun and learning strokes – it’s been proven to save lives,” said Katie, who advocates that all parents look into it.
Katie plans to enroll her youngest of four girls – the one she didn’t yet know she was pregnant with at the time of Nora’s accident – in the classes too. She’s immensely grateful for all her healthy daughters, but Nora is an extra special reminder of how precious they are.
“She overcame every obstacle and was so strong. Everything about her makes me proud – the fact that she stuck through her swimming and never gave up. Just her life honestly. You really understand when you experience something like this how special your child’s life really is.”
Take steps to prevent drownings
Not every family has a happy ending like Nora’s. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is a leading cause of death for children.
Keep kids safe from drowning
- Make it a priority to teach kids to swim.
- Designate a water watcher.
- Don’t assume another adult is watching. Designate an adult who knows how to swim to watch for a certain period of time, then pass the responsibility to the next adult.
- Put your cell phone down and give 100 percent attention to watching the kids in the water.
- Never rely on water wings, floaties or puddle jumpers for safety – in fact, they can prevent kids from flipping themselves over if needed.
- Teach children that oceans, lakes and other open bodies of water have currents, undertow and uneven surfaces that can be hazardous.
Extra layers of protection for home pools
Oftentimes, drownings occur when kids aren’t expected to be in the water.
- Have a fence that separates the pool from the house.
- The fence should surround all sides of the pool, be at least four feet tall and have a gate that closes and latches.
- Install alarms on all doors of the home – even pet doors – to alert adults when they’re opened.
- Remove toys from the pool area after each use so they don’t entice kids back to the water.
Read about our other inspiring CHoR calendar kids