Oct. 3, 2015 began like any other early fall day in rural Bridesville: the air was crisp and the sun shone brightly as the day slowly began to wind down.
It would end on a much different note, however, and be etched forever in the minds of sisters Raylene Tyssen and Erika Maarhuis who, along with their mother Anne DeJong had helped save Tyssen’s 13-month-old toddler Jude from near-death by their quick actions.
In recognition of their efforts, the three have been nominated for the Royal Lifesaving Society’s Honour and Rescue Award, which will be presented on March 5 in Vancouver.
Jude was found face down and submerged in a neighbour’s pond, a type of accident that, sadly, is not that uncommon. Until now, the Tyssens had chosen not to share their story outside of their circle of friends, family and church, but recently agreed to do so with the Boundary Creek Times. Here is Raylene Tyssen’s story.
“My husband Cam and I nearly lost our 13-month-old baby Jude on Oct. 3, 2015. We were celebrating our older son’s third birthday outside in the yard, with over 30 family members and friends.
It was nearly six o’clock in the evening, and we were minutes away from serving dinner to our guests. Cam was at the barbecue making burgers and I was inside preparing salads and fries. All the parents were socializing and the kids were playing. It was a great start to what should have been a fun evening.
I asked someone to keep an eye on Jude as I was going to be going in and out of the house getting dinner ready. I had to make multiple trips bringing food items down to the party. On one of my trips I stopped to say hello to someone who had just arrived. This was mistakenly perceived by the person watching Jude as my being done what I had to do in the house, and was back to enjoying the party and watching him.
After saying hello, I went back in the house since the fries were nearly done. Standing in the kitchen, I heard a voice in my head, “You need to find Jude.” I almost dismissed it because how could Jude not be safe with someone watching him and so many people around?
But then I heard the voice again: “You need to find Jude now!” I dropped what I was doing and ran outside and didn’t see him playing anymore. I frantically asked, “Where is Jude?” He was not there!
Without hesitation I knew where to run, and I ran with all my might to the neighbour’s garden pond, a far distance from where Jude had last been playing. The pond is only 10 feet wide and three and a half feet deep, and the water is dark and murky with algae.
There, I saw Jude, face down, submerged in water with no movement in his body. That image of him will be engraved on my brain forever.
Screaming for help, I jumped right in, pulled him above the surface and looked at his blue, lifeless face. The bottom of the pond was covered in algae, making it so I could not stand up. It was so slippery and Jude’s lifeless body was so heavy, his thick jacket filled with water.
My mom had been running right behind me and saw my splash behind the bushes. She jumped halfway in, and since I couldn’t stand up, she was able to grab Jude out of my hands and put the first breath of air in him as she climbed out and laid him on the grass.
My sister Erika arrived a second after my mom, took control, and started CPR before I was even out of the water. Time stopped. What we thought was one minute of CPR was actually five minutes. We yelled at Jude to come back, “You can‘t leave us baby!“
We yelled at God to give us a miracle, we believed he could save our baby. For five minutes Erika did CPR, pushing on his little chest as hard as she could, desperate and determined to save him. After five minutes Jude came back to life, a little bubble came out of his mouth and then his eyes opened and rolled back. Soon after, he started making a moaning sound with shallow breathing in between.
He was cold and was struggling to stay awake and to breathe. We took off his wet clothes and my wet shirt and placed him on my chest, where he was comfortable and familiar. Jude and I were then covered in sweaters and jackets and the small group of us moved inside.
My brother-in-law, Chad, had been on the phone with emergency services immediately after Jude was pulled from the water, unfortunately once Jude was breathing, the 911 operator felt it was okay to disconnect the phone call even though the paramedics were still a far distance away.
We had to keep Jude awake by calling his name, making him uncomfortable and startling him, otherwise he would close his eyes and stop breathing. With help so far away and Jude struggling to stay awake and breath, Chad called 911 again so someone could stay on the phone with us until the paramedics arrived.
A friend reminded me that I was soaking wet from my neck down and needed to get changed in to dry clothes, because I would be leaving with Jude and the paramedics. Cam packed a bag for us, not knowing where we were going and for how long.
Both Midway and Osoyoos paramedics were dispatched and arrived at our home two minutes apart, 40 minutes after the accident happened. When the first paramedics arrived they started giving Jude oxygen and it made a huge difference! Jude became alert and started fighting them off, his moaning became screaming.
Holding Jude in my arms, we went by ambulance to Osoyoos. There, a helicopter was waiting for us. Once Jude was stabilized and hooked up to the monitors he was allowed to breastfeed and fall asleep on me for the flight. We transferred to the helicopter and took off for Kelowna.
I prayed that he would stay sleeping and remain stabilized. The paramedics had a needle to sedate him if he woke up and became uncontrollable. It was a quiet 25-minute flight to Kelowna. It was the first time I was able to stop and think about what just happened. I needed to cry and I needed to thank God for His mercy and grace in reviving Jude, who, thankfully, stayed sleeping the whole helicopter ride in my arms, even when we were wheeled in our stretcher to the trauma room.
We arrived to nine medical staff scrubbed up, standing around the trauma bed, ready to go to work on him, but here he was stable and sleeping in my arms, exhausted. The paramedic made the decision to first talk about the story, get details and questions that the staff had for me, before waking Jude up, which took about 15 minutes.
From there, I laid him on the bed and he woke up screaming. Everyone went to work assessing him, covering him in monitors, checking reflexes, his eyes and his temperature. Then X-ray technicians came and X-rayed his chest and then blood was taken. After that, the room quietened down and Jude was allowed to breastfeed and go back to sleep on me. Only two doctors remained as results started trickling in.
First, his oxygen levels were at 100 per cent! Then his X-ray came back clear: no broken bones or punctured lung from CPR! His heart, lungs and kidneys looked great, and then the blood test results that showed previous oxygen loss in the brain came back 100 per cent! It was a miracle for everyone there!
All the trauma staff said this is not the outcome they normally see when an infant drowns. I saw first hand this miracle that only God could perform! I held my lifeless baby boy in my arms, and I saw God breathe life into him again.
The only medical explanation is a phenomenon called infant dive reflex, yet it’s only supposed to last until a child is six months old. When a baby falls in very cold water, their body shuts down and the lungs are sealed off from the esophagus. They retain the oxygen already in their body and their heart and lungs go to 20 percent functioning. It lasts for up to 10 minutes and it was estimated Jude was under the water for perhaps as long as seven minutes and received CPR for five minutes more, before regaining consciousness.
Cam and my sister, Erika, arrived one hour after we got to Kelowna and met us in our trauma room. Once all the results were in and Jude was breathing great, we were brought to our pediatric room around 11:30 p.m.
It was close to midnight when Chad came to pick up Erika, and that’s when Jude woke up for the first time. He was sore, uncomfortable and exhausted and yet he smiled for us!
We requested an adult bed for Jude and I to stay in together, because there was no way he was going to let me go, and no way I was letting him go. All night I watched the monitors, placed my hand on his beating heart and could hear him breathe, yet I couldn’t stop reliving it over and over again, picturing him blue and unresponsive, what I thought was dead.
The whole night, every second Cam or I closed our eyes, we were seeing flash backs and thinking about what if the outcome was any different. How would we live? How could life possibly go on without our child?
On Oct. 4, at 6:30 in the morning, Jude sat up in bed and started singing the Bubble Guppies theme song, his favourite show. Cam and I burst into laughter and tears. Jude was back, and probably wondering what all the fuss was about! Jude did not like vitals being done every two hours or having monitors stuck all over him all night, but thankfully that morning he was able to have them off.
Jude and I showered and washed the awful pond smell off our bodies. It was a new day with new beginnings! A victims service counselor came to visit us that morning, to see how Cam and I were doing after the near tragedy we experienced. She really helped us to focus only on being present with Jude, not to think about how we saw him, grieving him or thinking about the “what if’s.” Our son was alive and well, and needed us.
We definitely struggled with emotions, flash backs and reliving the horrible experience, but thankfully we could hold our living baby whenever we needed a reminder. We were released from the hospital 38 hours after arriving. We got to our home on Monday, Oct. 5 in the afternoon. The emotions, grief and flashbacks have been part of the healing process, but it’s more of a memory now than reliving it over and over.
We are all doing well and back into normal routine around here. Complete healing will come with time, but those images will never leave my mind. The pain of nearly losing a child is unimaginable, and yet we are full of thanksgiving and joy, and glorifying God! He spared Jude‘s life! Cam and I struggled whether or not we wanted to share our story beyond close family, friends and our church. We worried of the backlash we could receive on social media. We have decided to share it now, because this was a miracle and God needs to be praised!
The other reason we wanted to share our story was to help bring awareness to parents. Cam and I are very protective parents who never thought it would happen to us. Every time we go outside the pond next door is on our mind. Our children are always near us and have never been alone outside.
There were so many people at the party, and not one person saw Jude walk away in that direction. It was a simple misunderstanding; the person who had been watching Jude thought I was back and started socializing again. It was an accident.
Many of us at the party had taken a CPR course at some point in our life including myself. Besides not being able to get myself out of the pond, I froze in shock and grief but it took one special person to take control and not give up! For that, I am eternally grateful that my sister was right there when I needed her! Statistically speaking, if you have to administer CPR in an emergency, the life you might save is likely to be someone at home: a child, a spouse, a parent or a friend.
This whole experience has been very humbling for Cam and I. Up to this point, we have instantly judged or criticized other parents when hearing about a infant drownings on the news, but now it had happened to us. Accidents happen, and they even happen to good people and good parents. We never thought it would happen to us, but it did, with 32 people on our property.
In the hospital we were told that it’s a fact, drowning accidents happen the most when you are in large groups of people, even with many adults, like birthday parties, family gatherings, cabins.
Not everything happens for a reason; God didn’t do this to make us stronger or to teach us a lesson. Jude is simply a toddler; he is curious and he doesn’t know consequences or that water can be deadly. God is the reason Jude is alive and well! He spared our son’s life and gave us the privilege of continuing to raise him! This is my testimony. I hope this story brings all the glory and praise to God’s unstoppable love, power, mercy, grace and forgiveness.
I also hope it brings awareness to those who do not know how to administer CPR, it is accessible for anyone to learn, and it could save another’s life.”
– Raylene Tyssen, Oct 28th, 2015
Since the accident, Erika Maarhuis has been lobbying for some changes to emergency response systems in her largely rural area, as well as changes to road names.
Paramedics were not as quick to reach their destination as they usually are, due to some apparent confusion as to the location of the incident.
Access to homes in the area are mostly accessed by Sidley Mountain Road, which is a lengthy loop that starts and finishes off Highway 3. The entrances to the road are seperated by kilometres and not differentiated by name.
The Oliver first response vehicle chose the “wrong” entrance to the road. Maarhuis and other residents would like to see “East” and “West” added to the Sidley Mountain Road signs. Additionally, a much closer emergency response team is headquartered less than 15 kilometres away from the site of the accident on Anarchist Mountain; that community’s fire department is fully equipped to respond to such an event but was not authorized to do so. In Maarhuis’ mind, having a CPR-trained community, equipped with oxygen and even de-fibrillators, working alongside officials, would go a long way to helping save lives.
Maarhuis has already organized a CPR training session for the Rock Creek area, and would like to see funding become available for such community-based programs, as well as being incorporated into the secondary school system.
A Royal Lifesaving Society’s Honour and Rescue Award notwithstanding, the near-death of Raylene Tyssen’s 13-month-old son will always be with she and her family. It may just, however, have led to a much greater understanding of the importance of simple cardiopulmonary resusitation training, and, perhaps, make rural areas much better equipped to deal with such life-changing incidents.