Jeff: Late spring 2018 was one of the most challenging times our family has faced. I work for Pine Cove Camp (headquartered in Tyler, Texas). On May 21 I was finishing up a 22-month, $2 million project to build a camp for high schoolers. The next day my wife, Charis, gave birth to our youngest child, Nix.
Charis: Two weeks later I took our four children—including our newborn—to a friend’s house for a fun day of swimming. There were a number of adults there to supervise the kiddos from each family, including two who’d been our kids’ nannies.
At lunchtime our two-year-old, Susanna, whom we call “Susu,” had a difficult time eating. With her life jacket on, she was unable to reach her arms to her mouth to eat so I took her life jacket off. After she finished eating, I asked her if she wanted to get back in the pool and swim. She said no. Since there was an adult in the pool and others around, I felt comfortable letting her play nearby, even without a life jacket.
When the lady in the pool got out to take care of a toddler’s soiled diaper, she mentioned she’d run out. I offered to give her some of mine. We both turned to seek out clean diapers.
That’s when the older kids start yelling, “The baby’s in the bottom of the pool! The baby’s in the bottom of the pool!”
My mind immediately went to our newborn. How could he be in the pool? He’s right here with me!
Then I realized Susu was the one in distress.
Jeff: A woman jumped in the pool and grabbed her. Charis is a registered nurse and she immediately checked for a pulse, but Susu didn’t have one. Her skin was blue, she wasn’t breathing and there were no signs of life.
Charis: My training took over and I started CPR while screaming for someone to call 911. I wasn’t sure how long she was under water, but I knew it could have been as long as three minutes. I kept working on Susu and at one point shouted for the adults to get the other kids out of there. They don’t need to see this, I thought.
And then another realization hit: I’m going to have to tell Jeff that our daughter died while I was watching her.
Jeff: When emergency responders arrived, Susu had been without oxygen for at least eight to 10 minutes. Just as they pulled up to the house, Susu started gurgling and Charis found a weak pulse. I arrived a few minutes later and we were advised to head to the hospital to meet Susu and the response team. We thanked God that she was headed to one of the best children’s hospitals in the country. (Editor’s note: Please see CHM Guideline U for information regarding medical transportation sharing eligibility.)
Charis: On the long drive to the hospital we were flooded with emotions and were reminded of the words in Psalm 126:5: “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.”
Jeff: When we got there we saw all of the emergency responders standing around. I had a sinking feeling.
She’s gone. She died.
What we couldn’t see was that around the corner doctors and nurses were working on Susu. It was eerily quiet, but that was the turning point. The initial labs and test results gave us hope. Each subsequent test brought better news.
Susu was going to make it.
Of course, we then wondered if she’d suffered brain damage, but were delighted to hear that doctors expected a full recovery. One physician told us less than one in 10 submersion injuries of this magnitude result in the patient escaping permanent disability. Susu was able to come home three days later.
Charis: There’s much more to the story. After our first two children were born I suffered severe post-partum depression and didn’t want to have any more kids. We chose to trust God and ended up with the wonderful blessings we have in Susu and Nix. After our daughter’s accident, God intervened in many amazing ways and surrounded us with skilled healthcare providers, loving family members and dear friends and church family. There’s no way we can adequately thank them all.
Also, since Pine Cove Camp is a CHM group—meaning that the camp’s staff has Christian Healthcare Ministries for their healthcare costs—we also had a lot of support and help from our Pine Cove human resources staff.
Jeff: We later learned that when CHM staff heard what happened to Susu, they immediately sent an email to all the ministry’s staff members asking them to pray for our family.
They were so helpful in the coming weeks whenever we had a question about what to do with all the medical bills. CHM shared nearly $89,000 for Susu’s drowning accident along with nearly $8,000 for Nix’s birth!
Charis: Susu’s ordeal has strengthened our relationship with the Lord because we saw Him work and move in powerful, unexplainable ways. I remember one eye-opening moment when I thought about God’s sovereignty and His care for our family. I thought, Susu was never alone. God was with her at the bottom of that pool. He was with her en route to the hospital and when the doctors were working on her. He was with us through every parent’s worst nightmare when we couldn’t see that there was hope of life being restored.
We look forward to sharing this story with Susu when she’s older and explaining to her that God has a profound purpose for her life.
Jeff: We want to thank the CHM staff for being there for us and being gracious when our heads were spinning and we felt overwhelmed. We thank fellow members for sharing our many expenses and relieving us of a great financial burden.
God is working through Christian Healthcare Ministries.