IN 2007, there were 257 drowning deaths in Australia.
On Sunday morning, January 14, 2007, Ruby Fletcher would have become one of those statistics if it were not for the quick-thinking actions of her father.
It was an easy Sunday morning. Darren and Gee had just been to church and were pottering about the house while Harry, their six-year-old son, had a friend over.
With such warm weather, the two children decided they wanted to go for a swim.
As their 13-month-old baby girl Ruby was sleeping in the cot, the pool fence was wedged open allowing the older children, both capable swimmers, to come and go from the pool as they wanted. Their parents watched from the kitchen window.
As the morning went on, baby Ruby woke up and was put on the floor for a play.
The radio was on, the back door was shut and Darren and Gee were inside with her, chatting to each other while Gee made lunch.
Darren thought Ruby was in the kitchen with Gee and Gee thought Ruby was on the other side of the breakfast bar with Darren.
Harry and his friend, Taylor decided they wanted to go for another swim. Had they not, the events of the day would have ended in disaster.
This was a moment that would change this family forever.
"Look at that, there's a big dolly in the swimming pool." said Taylor.
"That's not a dolly," replied Harry, "that's Ruby!"
The door was not open but there was a dog flap, which she had squeezed through.
Without hesitation, Darren bolted outside. He saw his little girl face down in the pool.
The water was calm so she had obviously been in there for a while.
These calculations he considered in split seconds as he jumped into the pool.
Darren scooped his little girl up. She was limp. Her eyes were open and he would never forget seeing a little silver lining around her eyes where the air bubbles had collected in her lashes.
Gee came out screaming. He told her to go and call an ambulance. He put Ruby on the side of the pool and listened to her chest. She was not breathing and there was no heartbeat.
Having hesitated before leaving work the previous Friday to read the CPR chart by the door, he began pumping her chest and blowing into her mouth, grateful that the information was fresh in his mind.
He watched her chest rise, listened to her again but there was no response. He turned her on to her side and patted her firmly on her back. Some water came up.
He rolled her over on to her back and pumped her chest again, blew into her mouth and patted her on the back. Some water came up again. He repeated this about six times until she opened her eyes.
At this stage he realised his son had been watching. Darren told him to go inside. He could hear his wife screaming out the front, "God please don't take my daughter!" He was saying it too.
Ruby's eyes rolled and she looked at him but she was still not conscious and closed her eyes again. Then she started breathing. At this point it had been about a minute since he had found her.
He put her into the recovery position; talking and holding her hand, trying to keep her warm until the ambulance arrived seven minutes later. She was breathing on her own, but nothing else.
"I was talking to her all the time," Darren says, "I was saying, 'Come on Ruby don't die, don't die, breathe baby,' and when she did I was so happy and then I started praying that she wouldn't be brain damaged."
The paramedics were impressed with Darren's actions and told him that if he hadn't given her CPR when he did, she probably wouldn't have survived another minute.
At that moment, Darren broke down and Gee became calm. Gee accompanied Ruby in the ambulance and Darren followed in another ambulance. Just before they arrived at the hospital, Ruby picked her head up and looked at her mum. Gee knew she was going to be all right.
The paramedics forewarned Darren that there would be drips in her when he got to the hospital and if she was crying that would be a good sign as she'd be taking in lots of oxygen. When he arrived, he went to the reception and all he could hear was Ruby screaming.
That was a good scream.
When they returned home, Ruby went straight back to the pool gate.
Darren took her back into the pool with him and she began swimming lessons that week.
Ruby made a complete recovery with no brain damage.
She is now a vibrant seven-year-old who knows how to swim well.
Darren and Gee were able to hold each other up during this time of crisis.
"There is no room for blame," says Gee, "you have to stick together and support each other."
Although it has been six years since the near-drowning,
the memories are still very fresh.
"It's not something you just get over," says Gee, who suffered post-traumatic stress disorder after it, "people think you just move on and get over it but you don't."
Darren and Gee want to spread the message to be vigilant with water safety.
They thought they had all bases covered but discovered that tragedy can happen in an instant.
Knowing CPR and keeping a calm head at that time saved Ruby's life.
Darren and Gee have heard so many similar stories since this incident happened to them.
Darren and Gee's advice to parents:
- put your children into swimming lessons
- know CPR
- be careful of dog flaps if you have babies or toddlers that crawl
- don't prop gates open even if you are around - children are obsessed with water
- be vigilant
- remember that small children are quick and quiet
- have CPR signs up in prominent places
The Queensland Government website has a printable CPR chart. Why not print one and have it handy at your house? http://www.ambulance.qld.gov.au
This story is the cover story of Good Life Magazine. You can read more stories like it here
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