KILGORE, Texas (KETK) – More children under the age of four die from drowning than other causes. With pools and multiple lakes here in East Texas, that’s a concern for many parents.
Linkin Waldon was known as an active and adventurous three-year-old. That was before his mom got a call she never expected.
“The only thing she could get out is it’s Linkin, and I asked you know what’s going on is he okay. She couldn’t say anything and finally, I just broke down and said is he alive and she said I don’t know,” said Jennifer Duffee, Linkin’s mother.
Linkin was found in his grandparent’s neighbor’s pool back in June. Doctors believe he was in the water for as long as 20 minutes when a teenager pulled his lifeless body out before first-responders arrived.
“I did my assessment on him and he was not alive. He did not have a perfusing heartbeat,” said David Kelly, paramedic.
Despite not having a heartbeat, paramedics were not ready to give up.
“A full-grown man basically pushing as hard as he can on my kid’s chest just to try to get him to breathe again and I’m so grateful he did that and got him to spit up all the water,” said Duffee.
“I did perform chest compressions. I did do them harder than I normally do on somebody his age,” said Kelly.
After performing chest compressions for many minutes, a pulse was found and Linkin was brought back to life. Despite being a miracle, doctors still wanted to keep a close eye on him.
“They said they weren’t sure if he was going to make it, honestly. They said it was some of the worst brain damage they had ever seen,” said Duffee.
The most difficult diagnosis – Linkin would never walk, talk, or eat again.
Knowing they would do anything for their son, Linkin’s parents traveled across the country to find a doctor that would treat him.
Multiple hospitals across the country refused to accept him except for Dell Children’s in Austin.
“That’s when everything started to change,” said Duffee.
At that point, Linkin started relearning everything on his own – breathing, standing, walking.
“Every therapist he had was just in shock. They said that they were so excited to come to work every day because they were ready to see what Linkin was going to do the next day,” said Duffee.
Linkin was discharged from the hospital nearly three months after the accident. While doctors and nurses cheered him on through the hallways of the hospital, Linkin’s support continued beyond the white walls.
“We were home for two days and he started walking on his own completely,” said Duffee.
Linkin has made a remarkable recovery but still has a long road ahead.
“Life is still hard don’t get me wrong. I miss hearing him talk to me. And having all of those conversations yeah I miss that a lot. Mainly ‘I love you, mom’. I know he will say it again though,” said Duffee.
That’s when Jennifer found ‘Infant Swim Resource,’ 10-minute-class helping children learn water safety.
“Not even just paying for the lessons but driving every day to Tyler to be here for a ten-minute class you know I was like that’s crazy,” said Duffee.
The class is offered for kids as young as six months of age.
“Once a child is mobile they can get themselves into trouble. And if they can do that, they can roll on their back and float and survive if they were able to get themselves into an accident,” said Kim Utley, certified infant swim resource instructor.
She said parents typically teach their children to associate water with fun activities, rather than safety.
“Parents are getting their children into the water at a really young age and strapping a floatation device on them and teaching them to jump in and have fun but they’re not teaching them what to do when they don’t have that device on,” said Utley.
Linkin and his sister started classes at the beginning of January.
“God has just blessed us beyond measure and has healed him in so many ways. In ways that I never expected. And I’m just blessed to be able to be here every day and hang out with him all the time when he shouldn’t even be here,” said Duffee.
Now both siblings are better prepared for the unknown and their mom has faith that Linkin will fully recover.
Some of the therapy Linkin is in isn’t covered by insurance. Oxygen therapy costs thousands of dollars and has been helping him tremendously. To help with these costs, Jennifer has created a Go Fund Me page.