North Richland Hills

Mother of Boy Who Nearly Drowned Shares Details of Difficult Recovery

Woman warns drowning is not like in films and television, with yelling and splashing, it's often silent and the recovery is anything but quick

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With the hot summer days just weeks away, a North Texas mother is fighting to help her son recover from a near drowning in a swimming pool while also educating others to try to prevent more tragedies from happening.

Every milestone Isaac Oates reaches is a blessing for his parents considering what almost happened to the young boy last year.

“It was just horrific. I thought I’d lost my son,” said Isaac’s mom, Amy Oates, while holding up her son's head for the camera.

On March 8, 2020, the family went to a family member’s house in North Richland Hills for a birthday party.

It is still not known how Isaac, then 19-months-old, was able to disappear without anyone noticing.

“It was minutes. Minutes that he had been missing,” she recalls. “Nobody thought to check outside.”

Shortly after canvassing inside the house, they went outside to find the toddler had fallen into the backyard swimming pool.

“When we found him, he was already unconscious and floating on top of the water,” said Oates. “It was horrific. You see these movies where they pull the kids out of the water and they pump them a few times and they spit up water and everything’s fine. That doesn’t happen.”

According to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, there have been 10 drownings involving children so far in 2021.

Between 2018 and 2020, Texas registered at least 80 child drownings each year, including two children in Tarrant County and six children in Dallas County.

“The majority of the drownings occur in backyard pools,” said Jesus Alderete, program manager for the ‘Know Before You Go’ program at Children’s Hospital.

The hospital is not associated with Oates or the near drowning.

A significant number of drownings also happen in bathtubs, according to data.

The water safety program provides water safety education, urging adults to be alert when children are in or near bodies of water.

“Drowning is a silent and quiet event,” said Alderete. “It’s never like the movies. There’s never yelling. There’s never splashing.”

Isaac was rushed to the hospital and did not have a heartbeat for approximately 45 minutes, according to his mother.

Although the boy survived, Oates said he suffered an anoxic brain injury after losing oxygen for a significant amount of time.

Isaac is unable to control motor or speech skills due to the damage.

Since the accident, his parents have sought out costly experimental therapies not covered by health insurance.

“Hyperbaric treatment for eight weeks in New Orleans, then we went to Monterrey, Mexico, for stem cells,” she said.

Oates said they chose to only use their son’s stem cells in their efforts to help his recovery.

Oates said she’s advocating for better health care options provided to survivors of near-drownings.

“When a doctor looks at you and says: Well, this is all you’ve got, I know different than that and we’re seeking treatment from doctors who know different than that.”

She also urged parents to seek out water survival training like infant swimming resources as early as possible.

“I really want to stop this from happening to another family, because it has just been a nightmare,” said Oates. “It’s so much work. It’s so much lost time. It’s so much money spent on rehabilitation that we’re not promised that they work, but it’s also 100% preventable. By educating yourself. Educating yourself that the fact that things that we tell ourselves that it’ll never happen to us is not true. Educating yourself in the fact that your child needs to know how to survive in the water even when they’re six months old. They need those skills.”

A fundraiser benefitting Isaac Oates’ therapy sessions will be held Saturday, April 24, from noon to 5 p.m. at MacGyver’s Food & Spirits in Burleson.

For more information, call 817-721-2415.

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