After our 4-year-old son nearly drowned, the doctors told us he would never be the same again. They were right.
It began as a typical late spring evening in our little city of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. But June 15, 2000, was destined to become a night my family will never forget. My oldest son Jacob's junior league baseball team had just lost a playoff game that, on paper, they were supposed to win. My husband, Craig, who was helping coach the team with a friend, had promised the boys that if they won, they would have a big pool party. But seeing the sulking faces of a bunch of 10-year-olds, Craig and his friend decided to let the boys have the party anyway.
So, at the home of one of the young players, the team and their families enjoyed the warm evening air. Everyone was having a great time in and around the pool. After swimming, we all gathered together to eat on the patio. The nine-foot-deep pool lay 20 yards away from the patio.
After getting our five children settled, my husband and I sat down to eat. Kennedy, our 4-year-old son, sat a few feet away on his towel, eating a hot dog with the "big boys."
Halfway through my meal, I realized Kennedy was no longer on his towel. At this point, many of the younger children had finished eating and were up playing on bikes and riding toys. I thought Kennedy was probably riding one of the toys, but I had an overwhelming sense that I needed to find my son.
I immediately went to the pool and did not see him. I scanned the area in and around the pool, looking for his little red swimsuit. I never thought to look on the bottom of the pool's deep end. I headed to the front of the house thinking the street would be the next worst place he could be.
I returned to the patio and told Craig that I could not find Kennedy. He also got up and went to the pool area. We searched and called for more than five minutes. As we were both returning from searching around the yard, we heard the screams. Above them all was our 10-year-old son Jacob yelling, "Daddy, Daddy, Kennedy was on the bottom of the pool!" I heard someone yell, "Call 911."
I ran toward the pool, and what I saw makes my heart ache even now. There on the concrete lay my precious Kennedy. He was limp, bloated to twice his size, and his coloring was a sick grayish blue. Craig, a family physician, was already crouched over our son, performing CPR. Kneeling behind him were two men praying and quoting Scripture.
This could not be happening, I said to myself, not to my child. I fell to my knees, grabbing Kennedy's legs, which felt like rubber, and prayed for the Lord to please save my son. I found out later that Kennedy did not have a heartbeat for the first five minutes of CPR.
After 12 minutes of CPR, the ambulance arrived. Kennedy was breathing and he had a heart rate of 120. Craig rode to the hospital in the ambulance with Kennedy. Our 5-week-old baby son and I were driven by our dear friend, who was also one of the men on their knees praying for Kennedy. This friend prayed and quoted Scripture the entire trip.
After arriving at the local hospital, Kennedy was intubated. His lungs were swelling and he was having seizures and posturing, which is a sign of brain damage.
Several of Craig's medical colleagues were there at the hospital, taking care of Kennedy. They worked feverishly, but they were not optimistic about his chances. He had been without oxygen for too long. The pediatrician who had trained Craig several years ago actually pulled me aside and explained how bleak the situation was, that Kennedy would likely have severe brain damage—if, in fact, he survived.
The ER doctors worked diligently, but they knew Kennedy needed to get to the children's hospital in Birmingham for the best care. It was a 20-minute trip for Kennedy on the Lifesaver helicopter. It would take Craig and I an hour by car. As we left, we knew things were not looking good for our little boy.
A small comfort, when we arrived at Children's Hospital, we were amazed at everyone who drove to Birmingham to support and pray for us. The prayers began to ripple through our community. After the doctors worked on Kennedy, the icu physician came out to tell us that Kennedy was in critical condition but there was a chance for survival. He told us Kennedy might not recognize us and that he might thrash around uncontrollably. He also told us that there was a five-day waiting period during which Kennedy's brain could begin swelling.
After the doctor left, I again prayed for my precious little boy. I prayed for complete healing, but I would take Kennedy anyway God would give him back to me.
We were able to see Kennedy a few hours later. My little man had tubes everywhere, one down his throat into his lungs, one arterial line into his heart, numerous ivs, and a catheter in his bladder. He was a pitiful sight, but he was alive.
Later that evening, we were unable to recall the name of the icu doctor who attended to Kennedy. He had been such a wonderful caregiver. Craig asked a nurse what his name was. She said, "Oh, that is Dr. Buckmaster." Craig and I looked at each other and smiled.
My loving brother, Mark Kennedy, who had died of brain cancer six months earlier, was nicknamed, "The Buckmaster" because of his love for deer hunting. It was a small comfort God gave us to let us know that he was in control. The next morning, we found out that Dr. Buckmaster's first name was Mark.
Out of deep waters, the next few days consisted of waiting and praying. Kennedy's lungs were very sick. Yet, two days after being found and pulled off the bottom of a swimming pool by a team of 9- and 10-year-old boys (a miracle in itself), our little son began to show signs that he was still with us.
The first signs were fighting with the tube down his throat, squeezing our hands on command, and the most exciting moment was the first time he gave us a little thumbs up. Throughout this time of waiting, God sent us caring family, friends, and hospital staff. But most comforting was his Word. We read his word everyday, and could feel it speaking to us.
On Sunday, June 18, God told me to read Psalm 18:
He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me (vv. 16-19, NIV).
I knew my little boy was going to be completely healed.
Exactly one week after the accident, Kennedy was released from Children's Hospital. A child who was supposed to die, or at least have severe brain damage, left the hospital on his granddad's shoulders. Minutes after arriving back home in Tuscaloosa, he asked his dad, "Daddy, will you play baseball with me?" I am sure you can guess what his daddy's answer was.
To heaven and back is the story of Kennedy's accident and healing is a miracle by itself. But there is so much more.
I desperately wanted to know how Kennedy got on the bottom of that pool. There were almost 40 people at the party, and no one saw him get in the pool. Why hadn't I watched him more closely? The guilt began to gnaw away at my conscience.
After Kennedy was able to talk, I said, "You were asleep for a long time, I have been missing you. What did you do?" He answered, "An angel picked me up and we flew. We flew through walls, clouds, and I flew through you, Mommy."
I asked him what the angel looked like, and he told me the angel had long white clothes. Kennedy told me they flew to heaven and that there was a door with jewels all around it and "when they opened that door, it was snowing in there."
I was careful not to put words in Kennedy's mouth, I wanted this to be his memory. The only time I asked him a detailed question was when I asked him if he had seen his Uncle Mark in heaven. Kennedy told me that he did see Mark in heaven and that he looked "just like Jesus, and all his boo-boos were gone." He told me Mark was happy and that he wanted to stay in heaven.
Kennedy told me that Jesus held him and that there were a lot of angels. Kennedy also described seeing a volcano. He told me, "There were people in the volcano, there was a dragon in there with them and they were sad, there was fire all around the volcano."
As Kennedy was describing all this to me, I asked him continually if he was ever afraid. He said, "No, I was with Jesus and Uncle Mark, and I was standing on glass; I was invisible." I asked Kennedy how he got back, and he told me Uncle Mark gave him a push and an angel flew him back. I asked him if he would like to go back to heaven again someday, and he said, "Yes, but Jesus is coming here."
Kennedy was a little boy who two weeks before his accident would have gotten upset if you discussed death and going to heaven with him. He was just 4, and he wasn't prepared for that. He didn't want to leave Mommy. Now, suddenly, he's a boy who tells us about Jesus and heaven with excitement and joy. Our son saw Jesus.
Many people have asked us how this experience has changed our lives. For one thing, it has turned us into fanatics when it comes to children and swimming safety. But more important, it has given our family a boldness to shout from the mountaintops what the Lord did for our little boy and what awaits us when we leave this world.
I know that Kennedy's experience will sound unbelievable to most people. And I understand. In fact, it would mean nothing to us if we did not have God's Word. Kennedy's story is a whisper, and God's Word is the trumpet.
'Mommy, I Saw Jesus'
by Amy Buettner
*Adapted from Kids Life: The Magazine for West Alabama Parents (May/June 2001), © 2001 Amy Buettner. Used by permission.
Copyright © 2002 by the author or Christianity Today International/Today's Christian magazine (formerly Christian Reader).Click here for reprint information.
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