A mother has spoken out as a warning to others after she found her 18-month-old son’s body floating in the family pool after the toddler wandered out through an open dog door.
ER nurse Jenny Bennett pulled little Jackson from the water and desperately performed CPR, but was unable to revive her son.
Jenny, mum to Jackson, Kila, 14, Lilly, eight, and Asher, three, is speaking out about her tragic experience as drownings surge during the COVID-19 lockdown.
This June, 68 children under the age of 12 drowned across the US – compared to 28 children who passed away from drowning in the same month last year, according to data collected by Total Aquatic Programming, LLC.
Jenny and her husband Adam, 40, a sales manager, often swam with Jackson in the pool of their home in Houston, Texas, USA.
She said: “He loved to swim with us and he loved the water. We were very proud of him being what we called a water baby.”
In July 2016, Jenny opened the dog door to let their dogs out when she and the family left the house to pick up Adam from work.
When the family returned, Jenny forgot that the dog door was open. She asked Adam to watch Jackson for a few minutes and Adam thought the toddler had gone to play with his sisters.
Jenny said: “I could hear the girls playing but I couldn’t hear Jackson which was strange as he was always laughing. That’s when I remembered the dog door was open – it was very out of routine that it was open.
“I ran immediately to the pool and that’s where I found him floating face down. I pulled him out. His eyes were open and his skin was warm and still looked pink.
“I thought I found him in time. I couldn’t hear him breathing. I put my head on his chest and I couldn’t hear a heartbeat. I started CPR on my son.
“I’ve performed CPR dozens, if not hundreds of times as a nurse, but never on a child.”
Paramedics arrived and Jackson was taken to HCA Houston Healthcare, where he remained on life support for four days, until he was declared braindead.
Jenny added: “We decided to donate his organs to children. We knew he would be saving others and living on through them. We said goodbye and he became a hero.”
The family travelled to Anchorage, Alaska, last summer to meet the four-year-old boy who received Jackson’s heart.
In 2018 Jenny set up Parents Preventing Childhood Drowning, an organization that aims to educate parents and teachers on ways to prevent drowning.
She said: “I thought we were doing everything right to keep our children safe but I feel like I never got the education about drowning prevention.”
Jenny now advocates for parents with pools to install a fence around the pool.
She said: “Put as many barriers as you can between your child and the pool. I highly recommend a fence that completely encloses your pool and is at least four feet high.
“Swimming lessons that focus on self-rescue and survival are your last layer of protection.
“If a child makes it through all of the barriers and into the pool, survival swimming will teach them to go onto their backs to float and how to exit the pool.”
Jenny fears the COVID-19 lockdown will create a spike in children drowning as families stay at home and parents may be distracted while working from home.
She added: “With more parents spending time at home, a toddler could wander off and find the pool.
“It just takes five minutes – in the time that you take to post a cute picture on Instagram, you could have a deadly situation.”
Jenny added that the parents of drowned children face stigma. “I feel like I’m living in my own personal jail,” she said.
“It took me two years to tell people how my son died because of the stigma. But I needed to speak up and share my story and I hope that somebody learns from it.”