In June 2018, life as Nicole Hughes knew it changed forever while she and her family were on vacation.
It was an annual beach trip with five other families. The day was filled with fun and sun. And through all of the outdoor activities, Nicole’s 3-year-old son Levi wore his life jacket.
“I have always taken water safety seriously,” Nicole explains. “In each of the pictures I have of my son's final day, he is wearing a life jacket. Flying a kite with his dad? Life jacket. Eating M&M's in a beach chair? Life jacket.”
Tragic Pool Drowning Happens In Mere Seconds
After dinner, the families were waiting until the sun went down so they could go crab fishing. Levi was sitting on the couch watching TV with the other kids. The adults were in the room talking and cleaning up.
“Ten adults, including myself and my husband, were in the room; we were not on our phones or drinking,” Nichole explains.
Somehow, Levi got up and slipped out of the room without anyone noticing.
“Levi was gone for such a short amount of time that we didn't even know he was missing,” Nichole recalls.
Nichole had just split a brownie with Levi. In fact, she was still chewing the other half of the brownie when she looked over the balcony and spotted her 3-year-old son facedown in the bottom of the pool.
Nichole immediately jumped into the pool to retrieve her son. Friends and family joined in, doing their best to revive Levi.
“We had six physicians on our trip, including my own husband. If Levi could have been saved by desperation, skill, and love, he would still be here,” Nichole says.
Grieving Mom Finds Startling Facts
Even with the immediate reaction and medical attention, Levi couldn’t be saved. And what stood out to Nichole was just how quickly it all happened.
As Nichole started researching pool drownings, the facts she discovered stunned her.
Drowning is the leading cause of death in children ages 1-4. And 69% of the children who drown are not expected to be swimming, yet they are found in the water. And a child can drown in less than 1 minute.
Nichole says she’s always been aware that drowning was a potential danger. That is the reason she used life jackets, swim lessons, and close supervision while swimming.
“But why did I not know about the dangers of drowning during NON-SWIMMING times? How did I not know it took less than one minute?” she now asks.
The more research Nichole did on pool drownings, the angrier she became.
“Why is my mom-brain filled with internal debates about screen time, organic fruit, and sunscreen free of oxybenzone? I still cut my 9-year-old's grapes — I buy DHA milk. I worry that the hours of YouTube my kids watch will prevent them from being functioning adults one day,” Nichole realized. “These are the topics that are pushed in my direction.”
Mom Issues Pool Drowning Warning To Educate Others
This grieving mom isn’t trying to push the blame of her son’s death off her own shoulder’s. But she does want to ensure other parents are aware of these startling facts before tragedy has a chance to strike again.
And now, Nichole Hughes is giving her pain a purpose.
“I have fueled my grief and anger into action,” she says. “Based on the research on drowning, I have created a non-profit called Levi's Legacy. My mission is to eradicate drowning completely.”
Nichole goes on to explain, “I don't want this role of water-safety advocate. I want 30 seconds back on June 10. But I am determined to share these facts I so desperately wish I had known.”
Nichole is hoping Levi’s story will encourage the American Academy of Pediatrics to make a bigger push to get the pool drowning statistics in front of parents.
Finding The Good
The tough part of a tragedy like Levi’s pool drowning is nothing will ever erase the loss. But even in the midst of such heartache, God is comforting Nichole.
Nichole recalls that while she was desperately trying to pull her 3-year-old son out of the water, one of their friends hurled themselves off of the second-floor balcony into the pool in an attempt to help save Levi.
The courageous act sent a powerful message to Nichole when she needed it most.
“From the very beginning, I have not been alone in this journey. It was my first gift of beauty in the midst of tragedy,” she says.
In the heart-wrenching moments of despair as her friends tried to revive Levi, Nichole spotted another powerful sign.
“When I opened my eyes and looked toward the ocean, I saw a patch of rainbow, its bright colors sketched vibrantly against the darkening evening sky. There was no light anywhere in the expanse of gray, except for these gleaming colors - smeared and incomplete, like a child's finger painting.”
It reminded Nichole how important relationships are. And the outpouring of support she and her family have received since Levi’s drowning keeps reminding them they are not alone.
So, instead of letting the grief consume her, Nichole is choosing to live a purposeful life.
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“My love for Levi will last forever and so will my grief,” she says. “But, if grief must be my lifelong burden to carry, I hope to lessen its weight through the beauty of connections with others.”
h/t: Faith It
Featured Image Credit: Levi’s Legacy