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Woman says all kids need swim lessons after son almost drowned in pool

Rick Armstong, producer, and Lena Tillett, anchor/reporterMay 20, 2019

A woman is sharing the story of how she nearly lost her son to help keep other parents from experiencing what she did.

Emily Smith-Buhler has three children. She said her 4-year-old, Soren, has a smile “like sunshine.”

But Smith-Buhler almost lost Soren last year at a friend’s pool.

“He didn’t want to swim, but my other two did,” Smith-Buhler said, recalling that she thought her son was right beside her as she talked with her friend. “My daughter, right beside me in the pool, screamed, ‘Soren is dead.’ In my mind, I thought how is that possible? He’s right here beside me -- he’s playing!”

Then, Smith-Buhler saw Soren at the bottom of the pool. He wasn’t moving.

Smith-Buhler lifted her lifeless son out of the water, and her CPR training from her time as a lifeguard years ago kicked in.

“He wasn’t breathing and he was blue,” Smith Buhler said. “Anders, my son, he said a prayer, saying, ‘Please save my brother.’”

According to Smith-Buhler, after three cycles of CPR, Soren coughed and came back. She feared the risk of brain damage, but Soren fully recovered.

Jen George, the owner of Aquatots, a north Raleigh swim school, said drowning can happen in as few as 5 inches of water.

According to George, drowning is the number one cause of accidental death in children ages 1 to 4 -- which is why she recommends swim lessons as early as age 1. After age 5, it’s more difficult, George said.

“They start to have fears that, to them, seem more rational -- whereas when they’re young, they’re relatively more pliable and moldable,” George said.

According to George, parents looking to enroll their toddlers and children in a swim class should look for three critical survival lessons:

After her son’s near-death experience, Smith-Buhler wants other parents to know that swimming is not only fun -- it’s also a vital life skill.

“Children are drowning and I never want people to have to experience what I did,” Smith-Buhler said.

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