By Hannah Sihoe
I remember clearly what happened last year (2016) when I almost lost Gideon, who was only 6 years old. My kids, Caleb and Gideon, were invited by some neighbor friends to go swimming. This invitation came as a great relief from the heat and boredom of summer. Since both my boys already knew how to swim and it was a small pool, I chose to sit next to the pool and watch. My older son, Caleb, briefly came out due to a bloody nose. Within a couple of minutes of getting tissue to clean up his nose, I heard Jake (a friend of theirs) say that something was also coming out of Gideon’s nose. My usual mommy thought was, “Oh my goodness, my kids are so embarrassing!” Jake told me again a second time before I decided to turn my head to Gideon, only to find him at the bottom of the 5’ pool – face down, limp, just drifting at the bottom. I immediately jumped in, somehow pushed him over and out onto the concrete, and saw that he was completely purple and unresponsive. I began CPR and tried to remain as calm as possible, knowing that every minute without oxygen can lead to brain damage or certain death. With every chest compression and breath given, I found myself screaming at the top of my lungs only two words – Jesus! and No! Jesus!…because I knew He was the only One who could save Gideon, and No! because I was NOT going to plan a funeral for my son.
It felt like a lifetime, but after 3 cycles of CPR, Gideon began to vomit and take his first breath again. Although he was still purple and could not move, he was now able to open his eyes. Soon, all the first responders arrived…a lot of them! They assured me that he would be ok and that I had done a “good job.” Gideon stayed in the hospital ICU for 4 days to recover. His lungs actually refilled again with water during the first night, which is called secondary drowning and can happen after incidents such as his. He was monitored and placed on oxygen for several days. Even when released, he was forced to rest, as his lung muscles didn’t have full strength yet. During his recovery process, all the doctors and nurses said we were very fortunate and that I done a “good job” in saving him.
Had I really done a “good job”? I thought, “I basically let him drown right before my very eyes, so how could people tell me I did a good job?” Giving into this guilty thought of being a terrible mother brought spiritual darkness into my life. Buying this lie allowed for shame and fear to start pouring in. I would let the image of Gideon’s lifeless body control my thoughts, and would choose to re-live that memory day and night. I was so embarrassed of my failings as a mother that I wouldn’t share this life-changing incident with anyone outside of my family. I don’t know why I (as a parent) was afraid of being judged by others. I’ve always felt judged for simple things like letting my kids stand up in a shopping cart, or be seen yelling at them in a store, or even letting them play with my phone at a restaurant. So I certainly didn’t want people to judge me with questions like, “Why didn’t you swim in the water with him? Does he really know how to swim? Was he sick that day?”
This fear of judgment led me to deal with my emotions alone. Shame had taken over, anxiety was constant, and my spirit felt drained. I realized I was in trouble, and for many months, I knew my guilty thoughts were unhealthy, both for myself and my family. I was tired of hearing my own voice and was fed up with how I felt. I knew I had bought these lies, so I decided to return them! I finally decided to just let go of myself and to allow God to take control. And God was right there – faithful and ready to forgive. I knew that I also needed to change my behavior, so I began to openly share my story with others. The more I talked about the drowning, the more thankful I became. The more thankful I became, the more I realized God’s power. And the more I knew God’s power, there was not much room left for fear or shame anymore.
I am amazed at God’s hand of protection. It wasn’t a coincidence that I had taken my CPR class just weeks before his drowning, nor was it a coincidence that God used Jake to turn my attention to the water. I have witnessed God’s goodness and now enjoy sharing this story with others. It has become a testimony that I share with unbelievers, unashamed to proclaim how God saved Gideon’s life that day. It has also become a turning point in my family because whenever we face difficult times, our stress is lessened when we think back to “that time.” We intently live our God-given lives with more confidence and less fear. I can go through hard days at work, busy days with kids, or mundane days at home with more joy and thankfulness.
To this day, my thoughts drift back to the moment I saw Gideon overwhelmed in the water. I sometimes wish that Gideon had never drowned, that our family never felt pain, and that I never accepted the lies of guilt and shame. I wish this was a life lesson we never had to learn. But because of this story, I am even more overwhelmed with God’s goodness, love and power. Isaiah 43:1-2 says, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; When you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”
I hope you will know the deep depth of God’s grace and trust in the tremendously powerful name of “Jesus.” I pray that we will always be thankful for the breath of life that only God can give, His breath of physical, spiritual and eternal life.