Cool heads and cardiopulmonary-resuscitation skills saved a 2-year-old girl who almost drowned near Vallecito Reservoir.
The incident took place Sunday evening north of the reservoir, where the Williams family of Mesa, Ariz., has a vacation home. The girl’s parents thought their older children would keep an eye on Clara when she went outside. They then realized the older kids had come inside, and Clara was outside alone, Upper Pine River Fire Protection District Chief Bruce Evans said.
“She found her way out onto the ice of the pond,” he said. “The child broke through the ice near where a stream feeds the pond and fell head first into the water.”
Shortly thereafter, the Williams noticed Clara’s pink shoes protruding from the hole and pulled her from the water.
“She was not breathing at that time,” Evans said. “The parents began CPR, and with the direction of the uncle, performed CPR, rescue breathing and rewarming of the child.”
The uncle had been a member of the Boy Scouts, where he learned how to resuscitate someone who has been immersed in cold water.
“The family revived the child prior to paramedics from Upper Pine River Fire arriving,” Evans said. “The first-arriving crews found the child blue in color but crying.”
The call came in at 6:25 p.m., and paramedics arrived about 12 minutes later from Upper Pine’s station below the Vallecito Dam.
Evans said no one knows exactly how long Clara was under water.
Clara survived with no neurological damage because of the mammalian diving reflex, Evans said. When the face hits extremely cold water, particularly in the very young, the heartbeat drops and the metabolism slows.
The record for immersion in cold water without suffering major neurological damage is Joey Garza’s 38 minutes in a river outside Fargo, N.D., Evans said.
Clara was taken to Mercy Regional Medical Center, where doctors kept her overnight for observation. Deemed healthy, she went home Monday with her family.
“This had a great outcome due to a family with CPR training, who remained collected under the worst of circumstances,” Evans said.
Several organizations offer CPR training in our area, including Heart Safe La Plata, local fire departments, Mercy, the American Red Cross and the American Heart Association.