‘I was probably going to die:’ 10-year-old Akron boy recalls near drowning

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AKRON, Ohio - With temperatures rising over the Memorial Day weekend and area pools starting to open, Akron Children's Hospital experienced a heartbreaking start to the season.

"This past weekend we saw three drownings here  at Akron Children's Hospital; unfortunately one child didn't survive the drowning, but two, thank God, did," said Dr. Jeff Kemph.

One of those who survived was Elijah Mathis.

Elijah, 10, was at his apartment complex pool with several friends and one of their fathers when he says he tripped and fell into the deep end of the pool.

"He's not a strong swimmer so the first thing I always tell him is to stay away from the deep end, don't even go close to it," said his mother, Deonka Mathis.

Elijah said it took only seconds for him to fear the worst.

"It was hard for me to get out since there was nothing near me for me to grab onto," Elijah said.

"I was able to jump up twice for air, but it was starting to get hard to breathe and I was ready to accept that I was probably going to die," Elijah said.

Elijah said he remembers seeing the top of the water, but closed his eyes because they were starting to sting.

"I really did feel like I was going to lose my mom and my sister, who I really care about. And I was thinking that this might be the end of my life really shortly and I was going to have to give up hope."

Elijah said he remembers sensing the hand of his friend's father grabbing him to pull him out but then he lost consciousness.

"Thank God he was brought to the surface very quickly, was unresponsive at the time he was brought up. CPR was started at the scene and it was a good outcome," Kemph said.

Elijah's mother said she doesn't know the woman who administered CPR to her son, but she believes he wouldn't be alive if she wasn't there.

"When you think that you almost lost your child, nothing seems good enough to protect them anymore; you realize that some things are out of your control. Even if I had been there, this could still have happened," she said.

The hospital said the best protection to prevent drowning is the watchful eye of an adult or a swim buddy.

Even flotation devices, like floaties and foam noodles, can provide a false sense of security.

"Swimming lessons are fantastic, but we also want to remember that swimming lessons don't drown-proof your child and don't substitute for adult supervision," said Akron Children's Hospital Injury Prevention Coordinator Heather Trnka.

"There's far too many horrific stories and drowning is an accident. It doesn't have to happen; you can prevent drowning. It's preventable. We all need to think about it, be cognizant of it when you are around water," Kemph said.

Akron Children's Hospital