Judah’s Story: Pool Safety & Drowning Prevention


Judah Levi Brown was a lively, happy, vivacious, curious, adventurous 3 year-old boy. He was a blue-eyed, blonde haired firecracker. He loved life completely and soaked up every bit of it he could, as often as he could. His love of life was infectious. He was a kind and loving boy who always wanted to know everyone’s name. He loved zebras and elephants, paw patrol, chocolate, spending time with momma and daddy and his 6 siblings. He was a water baby. He loved water and would play in it all day, if he could. Knowing this, we got him swimming lessons early. He was taught how to rescue himself, if ever he needed to. We practiced these rescue techniques with him regularly. We did all we could, to make sure he stayed safe, so you can imagine the horror of the day he died.

We were at a BBQ, at an apartment pool, and all of the kids were swimming. Judah had a  swim floaty on. Judah got out of the pool and wanted his floaty off, so he could dry off. We got him his towel and couldn’t fit it around the floaty, so we took it off, wrapped him up and helped him find a chair to sit in, near us moms. We had all been sitting very close to the pool, watching the kids and periodically counting heads. Judah somehow got out of his chair, without anyone seeing, and got back into the pool, without his floaty on. It would have been only a minute or so since we had last seen him out of the pool, when we counted heads again and noticed he wasn’t among the other kids.

It was several minutes before we found him and when we did, he was under the water, not moving. My friend rushed past me and took him out. He wasn’t breathing and his lungs were full of water. We couldn’t get a heart beat. We called 911 and my husband, Mark, and my friend’s husband took turns doing CPR, until the ambulance came. They were able to get his heart going again and we got him to the hospital, where he would spend the next 2 and a half days in PICU, in critical condition and on life support. He was in cardiac arrest for, they are guessing, around 35 minutes, most of which was resuscitation time. The news from doctors wasn’t good from the start. They told us that he was without oxygen to his brain for so long that even if he did survive, he would be severely brain-damaged and dependent on machines for everything.

We waited. The doctors had seen a slight reaction, indicating brain activity, in his left pupil. For the next day and a half, they kept seeing the reaction. And then, it was gone. They allowed his siblings to come and see him and then completed a brain death assessment. He failed it. They did another, 12 hours later, and he failed it too. In between those assessments, they did a nuclear test, to see if any blood was flowing into his brain. There was none. They pronounced him brain-dead. We were painfully discussing organ donation in another room, and a doctor interrupted to inform us that Judah had gone into cardiac arrest, but was resuscitated again. A few minutes later, when we came out of the office, to speak to the doctors about how the donations would proceed, we saw a bunch of staff in Judah’s room, running around, and heard one doctor yell, “I’m calling it”. Judah had gone into cardiac arrest for the third and final time. His beautiful little heart just couldn’t handle any more, and gave out.

Judah died at 9:51pm on Sept. 26th, 2016. We buried him the following week. We are devastated. He was the youngest of 7 kids. He will always be our Judah-bug. We want people to be aware that even getting the proper lessons isn’t always enough to stop this from happening. Judah had the lessons. We practiced them with him. It still happened. Our advice is to get the lessons but also, when you are at a pool with your child, assign jobs to the adults. Make sure if there are non-swimmers or weak swimmers in the pool, that one parent is assigned only to that child and does not take their attention from that child until they are completely away from the water. We learned, after the tragedy, that it only takes 30 seconds for a child to drown and drowning is very often a silent thing. There are often no splashes, no noises to indicate that it is happening.  Drowning is the number one cause of accidental death and number 2 cause of all deaths in the 0-3 year old age group. Parents are not told this in swimming lessons, at doctor’s visits or at preschool. We need to change that.

This story was shared by Judah’s mother, Christi, to help drive awareness for child safety and help save other children’s lives as way to honor the loving memory of her son.


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