Arlington boy's near-drowning brings attention to pool safety

ARLINGTON -- Wayne Martin left his 4-year-old son, Evan, sitting on the edge of a hot tub June 13 while he stepped into the house to get swimming trunks, but he kept a close eye on the back yard, Martin said Thursday.

But then his cellphone rang, and he got distracted by the conversation.

Seconds later, he heard his 7-year-old son, Ethan, who was in the adjacent swimming pool, screaming for help.

Evan was floating face-down in the water.

"My worst nightmare had suddenly become reality," Martin said during a news conference at Medical Center of Arlington that was organized to draw attention to the number of child drownings. "It happened in a matter of seconds."

After pulling Evan out of the water, Martin performed CPR until Arlington emergency personnel arrived.

Evan had stopped breathing, but both emergency and hospital officials credit Ethan's quick response and Martin's CPR with saving the child's life.

Richard Urso, the emergency physician on duty that day, said the Martin story shows how a bad situation turned for the better.

"There were quick and decisive actions," Urso said. "From the 911 call to CPR, the system worked."

Evan was taken to Medical Center of Arlington, where he was stabilized before being transferred to Cook Children's Medical Center's pediatric intensive-care unit.

There, doctors used therapeutic hypothermia, a procedure that cooled Evan's body and put him in a coma to reduce brain swelling. He was released five days later.

"I had hoped everything would turn out for the best, but I really didn't know until I saw him wiggle his toes," Wayne Martin said.

During the news conference, officials with the Arlington Fire Department, American Medical Response and the Arlington hospital used the Martins' experience to warn the public about pool safety.

So far this year, 40 children have drowned in Texas. Last year, 113 drowned. In addition, a 2-year-old Colleyville child who was found in her family's pool Monday is at Cook Children's.

The girl's grandmother was baby-sitting her and two other children, police said.

Families are advised to put barriers around pools, learn CPR and not leave children unattended around water.

"Not only are these tragic events, but they're preventable," said Ernest Gurule, spokesman for American Medical Response. "We don't want another family to have to suffer."

Fire Lt. Tom Hixson suggested that parents enroll their children in swimming lessons so that an accident happens, they'll know how to survive.

"Rescue skills are very important for young children to learn," Hixson said. "There are videos of children who know at a young age how to roll on their backs and scream for help if they fall into the pool."

NATHANIEL JONES, 817-390-7742