By Peggy Purser Freeman
Two minutes can be a lifetime. For Andrea Wood and her children, two minutes changed everything. For a parent, protecting a child sometimes carries a heavy burden of regret and guilt. The Wood family, having been blessed with a miracle, recently shared their story with our readers.
“By the time June rolled around, the kids and I were ready to relax. It had rained for four months. The kids had begged to go swimming and finally we had a clear day. Working from home has its benefits, but this day had been a particularly long work session and the kids really wanted to swim. We entered the community pool main gate at 4:19. The time on the next gate showed 4:21. By 4:23 and one second, we had called 911 and my son wasn’t breathing.”
Andrea and Les Wood aren’t your usual parents, trying to remember first aid. They own AJT Safety, LLC. They teach safety. Therefore, when a crisis shattered her world, Andrea responded with clear thinking and quick reaction. Almost a year later, still shaken, the family shared their miracle with the hopes of helping other families.
“We walked into the pool area and were stopped immediately by a neighbor,” Andrea explained. “She shouted, ‘Stop! There’s glass everywhere.’ The neighbor’s foot was bleeding. I asked the kids to wait on the other side, away from the glass. They took off around the pool while I got her napkins. My four year old, Aiden, didn’t wait. My nine-year-old, Tristen, saw him about the same time I did.”
Tristen continued his mom’s story, his voice reflecting the pain he had suffered at seeing his little brother floating face down in the water. “My friend said, ‘Is that your brother?’ I rushed over and grabbed him, pulling Aiden to the side.”
Andrea continued, “He was completely unconscious. I did two chest compressions and then turned him on his side to get him to throw up. After some water came up, I gave two rescue breaths. Emily Barton and her children were there with us. She called 911. Aiden had only been in the water 30 seconds to a minute. However, a fatality can occur after only 10 seconds.” Because Aiden’s brother and mom acted so quickly to get him out of the water and he was moving a bit of air, the 911 operator asked them to get him into the car and head toward Stephenville. Being in a remote part of Erath County put him in more jeopardy. They sent the helicopter to meet the car on 377. With traffic stopped by the Erath Volunteer Fire Department, Air Evac 69 and Erath EMS, they quickly moved Aiden and his mom to the helicopter.
“There was nothing at this time that was hopeful.” Andrea continued, “They started the IV. When they put an oxygen mask on his face, Aiden became combative. Only 35 pounds, but he was fighting them so much they struggled to treat him. He was completely unaware of himself. At this point, the question hanging over us was how much brain function did he have left. They got us to Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth in fifteen minutes. The only thing that calmed him was when I lay beside him. They poured everything they had into helping him. Then I began the phone calls. Les was working in Midland.”
Les Wood had to drive to Fort Worth with all the questions that torment a parent when a child’s in crisis. Would he live? Would he be okay?
“Of course I was praying,” Les said. “I also knew Andrea could be battling guilt. So I began praying about what I should say to her to help her.”
“We all felt so much guilt,” Andrea added.
Tristen added, “I felt guilty, too. I thought I should have seen him sooner.”
“Me too,” eight-year-old Jillian echoed quietly.
“I didn’t feel guilty,” Aiden suddenly joined in on the conversation. “I was fighting a bad guy on my Halo game.” Everyone laughed at what Aiden was dreaming
Les added, “I realized the only way to heal is to keep finding ways to be grateful.”
“Waiting two days in the hospital, we had time to talk,” Andrea said. “So many people were asking about him and the Air Evac crew was asking if he made it through the night. On Thursday we went to see the crew and dispatchers, and the first thing Aiden said was, ‘I jumped in that water. I can swim and I almost made it to the ladder. As soon as I get home, I will do it again and I’ll make it.”
“With drowning on Tuesday, swimming lessons on Monday became the number one mission. Aiden had to learn to be a stronger swimmer,” Andrea said. “Pat Stewart was his swim teacher. Two weeks later we were hearing about other cases where children drowned, but weren’t resuscitated. It hit us hard. One child was two and one was three. I felt angry, guilty, and confused. Pat showed the same frustration. She believes swimming should be as important as reading and math. Then we all made a decision. I went to the superintendent and asked if we could pay for the children at our school in Bluff Dale –pre-k, kindergarten, and 1st grade – to have swimming lessons. The superintendent was all in. Then our friends, Emily and James Barton, who own Barton Performance Horses, partnered with us to make it happen.
Between the Wood family, Bluff Dale Community Outreach 501 3C, the Hood County YMCA, Pat Stewart, Brazos River Authorities, and Bluff Dale ISD, they established a multi-layered two-week curriculum to cover water safety, too. They taught skills during school such as: don’t jump in to help your friend; give them a noodle and pull them out; don’t go into swift running river water and more—making it a well-rounded program by busing 30 children to swim lessons for two weeks.
“We also offered parents who don’t know what to do a free CPR class, but few came.” Andrea added. “We can show how grateful we are by teaching other kids to save themselves.”
“I learned…” Jillian spoke up. “Don’t trust Aiden. He doesn’t listen.”
Les smiled. “With the right people beside you and behind you, with the Lord ahead of you, you can do anything. We can survive—forgive ourselves. We’re trying to pay it forward—to keep one parent from going through this. There’s no way to know why Aiden lived. But we want to help others know what to do for the best outcome. Our business is built on how to plan to avoid the worst. Not just to bring awareness to an issue, but to bring training and action to an issue. Bridge a gap between information and a skill. I could go in and talk to the kids for 30 minutes, hand out pamphlets. But a pamphlet doesn’t make you safe. You must learn the skill. Every school needs to do this.”
Photos provided by Andrea Wood