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Son of former Norfolk physician survives almost drowning

September 5, 2018

No parent should have to perform CPR on their child, but it’s a good thing that Dr. Louis Roemhildt and his wife, Julie, did.

Without the former Norfolkans’ quick actions, their 14-year-old son, Caleb, might not be here today.

On Aug. 9, the Roemhildt family was at their house in South Carolina when the children wanted to go for a swim in the family’s backyard pool.

The Roemhildt family has some rules with their pool — don’t hold your breath, you have to have a buddy with you at all times and you can’t use the pool when mom and dad aren’t home.

“Caleb (Roemhildt) was doing something all kids do at some time or another,” Mrs. Roemhildt said. “He would go under water and see how long they can hold their breath. Caleb is an extremely proficient swimmer, and he was going back-and-forth under the water. He didn’t come up.

“My husband pulled him from the pool and (Caleb) was not responsive for three to five minutes,” she said. “We yelled for the kids to call 911. We proceeded to do CPR. We finally got a pulse and got his airways opened up.”

With Louis and Julie both being in the medical profession, as a physician and a nurse, respectively, they were both confident in a time of crisis and were well versed in CPR. However, it is different when it is someone who is close to you.

“The emergency personnel got to our home and took over the care,” Mrs. Roemhildt said. “They got Caleb loaded into the ambulance. We met the ambulance at Carolina Pines Regional Medical Center in Hartsville, S.C. They took excellent care of Caleb.”

From there, Caleb was taken by medical helicopter to Florence, S.C., where he was admitted into the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) at McLeod Regional Medical Center.

She said the physician at McLeod contacted them and received permission to do some procedures and put in some medial lines.

“We arrived at the PICU, and that is kind of where his journey began,” Mrs. Roemhildt said.

On the evening of Aug. 9, there were times that Dr. and Mrs. Roemhildt were unsure if Caleb would make it. Caleb remained in a medically induced coma until Aug. 13.

“God knew he was going to make it,” Mrs. Roemhildt said. “Everytime I cried out for prayers on my prayer chain, things calmed down and we could feel Caleb fighting.”

Caleb will have a lot of follow up appointments in the coming days. His heart sustained no permanent damage.

“We are very blessed with that news,” Mrs. Roemhildt said. “He has a lot of pulmonary type appointments coming up. His upper airways are clear, and he had some respiratory distress along with pneumonia. The pneumonia is clear, but his lower airways need a little bit of assistance.”

Mrs. Roemhildt said that a new neighbor, who they had barely met set up the Team Caleb page on Facebook because Mrs. Roemhildt did not have time to respond to every message that she received personally.

“It’s just amazing that this new community that we live in has embraced our family,” Mrs. Roemhildt said. “The community we came from embraced us and helped us through this. A lot of people from Norfolk ended up talking to people from our new community saying, ‘Are there people there to support (the Roemhildt family)?’ and ‘What can we do from (Norfolk)?’ and that type of thing.

“It just shows how strong both communities are, the one we came from and our new one,” she said. “We can never say how much we have appreciated all their support and their prayers. Never underestimate the power of prayer in providing miracles for healing and for comfort.”

It also showed the couple the importance of prayer.

“No matter which way this would have turned out, those prayers were important to us. That community support was important to our children.”

She would also like to say that the value of education about CPR is very important.

Shallow water blackout is a real problem.

“Tell kids to not hyperventilate,” Mrs. Roemhildt said. “Never ignore the urge to breathe. Never swim alone. Don’t play the breath holding game. Most shallow water blackout instances happen when experienced swimmers try to hold their breath.

“All the kids do repetitiveunderwater games,” she said. “They hold their breath, do laps, and play at the bottom of the pool. It’s our job to now educate people. It comes on quickly and people don’t recognize it right away because they just think the person is playing their game at the bottom of the pool.”

In May, the Roemhildt family moved to South Carolina. While in Norfolk, Dr. Roemhildt worked as a physician at the hospital.

“Had it not been for Caleb receiving the treatment he did, not just with us, but the awesome treatment from the emergency personnel, the personnel at Carolina Pines, the personnel at McLeod, he would not be here,” Mrs. Roemhildt said. “People kept coming in to see him because they couldn’t believe he was still there. We believed he was there because we witnessed it. Being a medical professional, you don’t see people come back like this very often. It is only by a miracle, truly, that he did.”

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