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‘She Fell Into the Pool and She Isn’t Breathing’: Gabby’s Road to Recovery after Near-Drowning Experience

On a hot summer day in 2019, four-year-old Gabby and her siblings, Lilly and Alex went for a swim at their friend’s house. She was surrounded by family, friends, and other parents and, like the other kids, was wearing floaties in the water.

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Gabby before the pool accident. Source: Facebook

As everyone took a break from swimming to get something to eat and have a play on the swing set, Gabby and the other kids took off their floaties. While Gabby’s dad, Tim, helped her little sister, Lilly, cut a hot dog, Gabby went to reach for a toy floating in the pool.

She fell in.

By the time Tim noticed, his little girl was already unconscious. Tim and his friend, Charley removed her from the pool and immediately started CPR until an ambulance arrived. She was transferred to her local hospital, then airlifted to another hospital with very little hope of survival. 

71 days in the ICU

Tim and Gabby’s mum, Paula, were unsure they would ever see their daughter again, their little girl who loved to dance, sing, and play with her dollies. 

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Gabby in ICU with her loving siblings, Alex and Lilly. Source: Love What Matters

Paula writes on Gabby’s Facebook page

I still remember that phone call that Gabby drowned and that nightmare replays in my head over and over. Then getting to the hospital and the doctor giving us zero hope and telling us to say our goodbyes.”

However, Gabby’s heart started beating and they were told she was breathing, even though she remained in a coma.  

3 in 100 chance of survival after near-drowning experience 

For 71 days, Gabby’s family remained by Gabby’s side in the ICU. They were told that she couldn’t hear them as they spoke to her and played music for her. That she would never breathe on her own.

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Gabby in the ICU. Source: Love What Matters

They were told she would need a catheter for the rest of her life. She would never be able to move. She had a 3 in 100 chance of surviving the seizures she was having. 

But Gabby did survive. 71 days after her near-drowning, she went home. Gabby’s mum, Paula shared an update on Gabby on her Facebook page, one year after the accident. 

This last year has been the slowest and longest year of my life. I felt like a failure. I couldn’t help my child, I wasn’t there to protect her.

She’s been fighting from day 1 and still hasn’t given up. Yes, she’s not the same girl she was a year ago but that doesn’t mean she won’t be.

Every day is still a struggle. It’s hard to see your child and can’t figure out what wrong and how to help her.

What I learned in the last few weeks is that Gabby is here.

I still can talk to her, hug and kiss her. We still can celebrate holidays and birthdays with her. There are many parents that do not have that opportunity and instead had to bury their child.”

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Two years after the accident, Gabby is proving doctors wrong. Source: Facebook

Gabby remains in a wheelchair with minimal movement and she attends therapy weekly. But she can breathe on her own, she doesn’t need a catheter and she can hear when people talk, sing and play music for her.

She may not be the same little girl she once was, but she’s here. And that’s what matters. 

Aunt’s reminder about pool safety

Shortly after Gabby’s accident, her aunt Becca shared her side of the story with Love What Matters, explaining how heartbreaking it was to get that phone call that her niece had fallen into the pool. 

I received a phone call from my mom and I could not understand a word that was being said. I rushed to her house and the words hit me like a truck, ‘Gabby fell into the pool and she isn’t breathing.’

It replays in my head to this day and I will never forget that feeling.”

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Gabby with her aunt Becca before the near-drowning Source: Love What Matters

Becca also shares some incredibly important advice for parents when it comes to pool and water safety, something every parent needs to remember. 

Please don’t have your children use floating devices in the water. They give a false feeling of being able to stay afloat in the water.

Please don’t leave toys in your pools. Children may try to grab something and end up falling in.

Please put ladders up, close deck doors, and make sure there is a safety mechanism on your pool so kids do not have an easy access to the water.

Drowning is silent and is known for more deaths among children 1 to 4 years of age than any other cause.

You can follow Gabby’s story through her Facebook page, Go Pink for Gabby. 

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Avatar of Jenna Galley

Born and raised in Canada, Jenna now lives in Far North Queensland with her tribe. When the mum-of-three is not writing, you can find her floating in the pool, watching princess movies, frolicking on the beach, bouncing her baby to sleep or nagging her older kids to put on their pants.

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