A cautionary message as summer begins - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

A cautionary message as summer begins

June 25th, 2022 SanTan Sun News
A cautionary message as summer begins

By Paul Maryniak and Cecilia Chan
News Staff

Anyone who shrugs off news about a non-fatal child drowning as a momentary scare might want to talk to Brandi Stoll.

As the Ahwatukee woman has often explained on social media, near-drownings can shake parents to the core, often with long-term consequences for a child and their family.

A 2-year-old girl drowned this month in a pool at her Chandler home and on May 21, another 2-year-old girl’s lifeless body was pulled from a Gilbert home’s pool.

In some ways, Stoll was luckier than some parents of young near-drowning victims when her then-year-old daughter Alizah Rose slid unnoticed beneath the surface of her family’s pool last July 31.

In a worst-case scenario, non-fatal drowning victims can be left a spastic quadriplegic in need of care around the clock, their brain damaged from being cut off from oxygen for too long.

Fortunately, that didn’t happen to Alizah.

Still, a nightmare engulfed Alizah’s parents on what started to be a routine Saturday afternoon during a small gathering.

Moments after realizing she and other adults couldn’t find Alizah, Stoll recalled, “I instantly saw my lifeless little baby floating by the pool stairs.

“I rushed over and pulled her out by her tiny little swim diaper and instantly started to give her CPR. I don’t even know what happened in between that time other than screaming to call 911 and continuing chest compressions…. As I looked at my baby’s blue face and not breathing, I was able to remain calm and continue to call out commands.”

Stoll said police and firefighters swarmed around her home with more than a dozen patrol cars alone.

“They immediately make you feel you are the absolute worse at your absolute worse,” Stoll said, recalling how she sat in the back of a police car as officers asked her what happened and all she wanted to do “was be with my baby.”

Once they were all at the hospital, “I heard my baby crying (behind) the closed curtains and the hospital social worker sat me down and just stayed there and rubbed my back.”

Stoll switched to a narrative in real time to recall what happened next:

“The doctors and nurses are calling out numbers and stats and x-ray. I’m really trying to hear everything. I see these two doctors rush around the corner and go in my baby’s room. Minutes later they come out and ask if the can intubate her because she was 50/50.

“As a mother what am I supposed to do? I told them do whatever it takes to save her. They are able to stabilize her but she was still in extremely critical condition. They moved us up to ICU where the nurses immediately start monitoring her. At this point her lungs and heart sounded really good. So many beeps, tubes, lights, going on.

“Her stats started to drop because the tube was not far enough down so they had to start bagging her and fix it. Poor baby started to have ‘seizures’ so they pumped more meds to prevent them. Move forward about 30 minutes, she spiked a fever of 103.7 and kept having ‘seizures.’ They put a cooling pad under her, pumped her with more meds and just kept watching her. As I am watching my baby get worked on the investigators had to do their job and ask me questions and take pictures but the nurse never left her side or mine.”

“I did not sleep that whole night as I kept praying and hoping my baby would be okay,” Stoll continued, recalling how she berated herself and worried Alizah would not see her 2nd birthday.
Two days later, doctors wanted to start weaning Alizah off her breathing tube as she slowly showed improvement.

And on Aug. 3, Stoll posted news of a miracle:

“Today, in her MRI there was absolutely no damage, lungs have been clear, heart is strong, meds are wearing off and she is gaining her strength. I am forever in debt to everyone and grateful for those who don’t even know us shared our baby girl to be in their prayers. We love all of you and our baby is ALIVE and thriving.”

She posted, “My baby should not have survived and if she did it was expected she would have neurological issues. She is ALIVE AND HAS NO MAJOR ISSUES!!!! She is an absolute miracle. We will continue with therapies and a few medications but only temporarily.”

And on Aug. 15, Alizah Rose Stoll celebrated her 2nd birthday.

Some parents this year have not been so lucky. Besides the May drowning in Gilbert and this month’s in Chandler, five other Valley children have drowned, according to the latest data reported by Valley fire departments on the Children’s Safety Zone website.

All the children were under the age of 5.

Overall, there have been 28 reported water incidents involving kids 17 and younger so far this year.
Children’s Safety Zone first began publicizing the statistics in 2005, which also was the year with the highest number – 22– of child drownings in the county. The lowest number of fatalities was in 2019 with six and 2021 ended with 20 drownings involving victims 17 and younger.

Arizona Department of Health Services reported that from 2016-20, 1,386 people were hospitalized in Maricopa County for water-related incidents among people of all ages but children 4 and younger comprised 842 of these admissions.

While the federal government has no way of providing a comprehensive number of child drownings and near-drownings, drowning is among the top five causes of non-intentional injury death for kids under 5.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates there are at least 8,080 non-fatal drownings a year, or 22 a day, and that 40% require hospitalization.

Often the non-fatal cases lead to years, if not a lifetime, of pain and suffering for the child and their families as a result of brain damage caused by oxygen deprivation.

The annual count report, which looked at fatal and non-fatal drownings, found that among incidents involving young children, swimming pools and bathtubs were the water types most commonly identified as culprits.

According to the report, in the mid-1980’s the drowning death rate of preschoolers in the state ranked first in the nation. And though Arizona has improved upon that over the past several years, drowning is still the leading cause of death among children 1-4 years of age in Arizona, the report added.

While friends started fund drives to help the Stolls pay off the equivalent of two years of medical bills as the result of Alizah’s near-drowning, Brandi turned her attention to helping others with the help of Ahwatukee-based Armer Foundation for Kids, whose board she has since joined.

She helped organize with Armer Foundation a toy drive before Christmas that garnered 10,000 toys for kids in Banner Health’s oncology and pediatric intensive care hospital units.

Stoll and Armer Foundation have an ongoing project called The Alizah Project and are collecting continuously toys for such children as well as items for a parents’ “go bag” – a small bag with necessities like soap, toothpaste and other hygiene items parents can grab if their child suddenly must be rushed to the hospital. The project also collects snacks, comfort items like blankets and slippers and gift cards.

Details are at armerfoundation.org/thealizahproject. Items can be shipped to or dropped off at the foundation, STE 128, 9830 S. 51st St., Ahwatukee.

And Stoll tirelessly posts the story of Alizah’s brush with death, hoping “it could potentially save a life.”

“My daughter was a non-fatal drowning in Ahwatukee in July last year,” she writes. “ We were right there with her, but she got out of our sight. I know I am opening up to ridicule and judgment and I am okay with that. It was an accident and could have been prevented 100%. Drownings are SILENT!”

“You hear it all the time:- watch your kids around water. It’s true. It takes a moment to happen. We have a fence, we have life jackets, we were right there – four adults and it happened. Drowning does not discriminate! I was told multiple times in the hospital this outcome NEVER happens.

“My Alizah Rose Aguilar is an absolute miracle and she will know how many people who came forward to help and those who continue to help.”


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