Father saves son from near drowning

Published 4:03 pm Friday, June 22, 2012

In the hustle and bustle of daily life, it can be easy to get buried in long to-do lists and full schedules, sometimes forcing loved ones to the bottom of the priority list.

But after a close call earlier this month, Jemison’s Joe Smith will never take fatherhood or family for granted again.

Joe and his wife, Jennifer, nearly lost their 7-year-old son Jared in a hot tub accident June 3; since then, the two have recommitted themselves to putting family first.

Like so many times when tragedy strikes, there were no signs of trouble — just a regular day by the pool.

Then, in a matter of minutes, every member of the Smith family saw their life change.

Joe and Jennifer Smith's 7-year-old son, Jared, nearly died in a hot tub accident June 3. Jared is shown with his parents and sister, Jadyn.

The Smiths, along with neighbors, Noah and Joy Miller and their children, got together for a pool party.

Joe said he intended to keep the hot tub covered that day, but relented and agreed to let his daughter, Jadyn, and the Miller’s daughter, Jillian, use it.

“They kept bugging me about going in the hot tub, and my wife at first was saying ‘No, no, no,'” Joe said. “Then my daughter of course comes up to me and asks to go in, and I’m the dad that says yes to everything, so I uncovered it.

“They were running back and forth between the hot tub and the swimming pool. In the midst of all that, one of them must’ve kicked off the cover of the intake.”

From there, Jared’s eagerness to be like his dad nearly cost him his life. While Jared still has trouble discussing what happened with others, he has talked about the scare with his parents.

“He’s a Mr. Fix-it, like daddy is,” Joe said. “He always wants to be just like me, and he went down there to put the cover back on, and it just sucked his arm in.”

The next few seconds passed like an eternity, with Jared trying to muster up enough strength to pull his arm free. He pulled and prodded, but the suction of the intake was too much for him to get his arm free.

Above the water, no one realized what was going on until Jillian saw Jared at the bottom of the tub.

“[My wife] immediately ran over and jumped in and was trying to pull him, and couldn’t get it out.” Joe said.

From there, Jared getting out of the hot tub came down to the right people being in the right place at the right time.

“[Jennifer] got out and ran in and got me and told me that he was under water and not breathing, and I ran out there and jumped in and was pulling, and pulling, and pulling, and I couldn’t get his arm out,” Joe said. “I yelled to Noah to shut the breaker off, and he did, and the arm came right out; like, the suction was that hard on it.”

Despite being out of the water, Jared was still a long way from being safe and sound.

“He wasn’t breathing; he was blue, and his eyes were rolled back in his head,” Joe said. “I started doing CPR on him, and about the second time he started to cough up, so I was just focused on getting him back breathing.”

All the while, Jennifer Smith sat and watched in horror.

“(I thought) I was going to lose my baby,” she said. “And I could do nothing but scream. I couldn’t get him out; I didn’t know what to do.”

Jared was then transported to Children’s Hospital by ambulance, where he was kept in the emergency room for a few hours, and then moved to the ICU, where he woke up around 3:30 a.m.

“He was just kind of looking around, talking to us,” Joe said. “One of our biggest concerns was brain damage.”

Despite being under water for about five minutes, Jared sustained no brain damage of any kind, and surprisingly, no major injuries.

“Some bruising and stuff, a slight wrist fracture, and his whole hand was purple,” Joe Smith said.

After all that has happened, the Smiths want to make sure that they don’t miss an opportunity to spend time together.

“It put everything back into perspective,” Joe said. “My business doesn’t matter, nothing really matters, just the health and safety of these kids.”

Both parents are convinced that their son’s survival was nothing short of a miracle.

“It’s just by the grace of God he’s OK,” Joe said. “I have no experience with CPR. I’ve never seen it done, and I’ve never done it. I knew enough to not press too hard on his chest because he’s a child, but I didn’t know how many times to do it or how many deep breaths to put in; something just told me to.”

His wife echoed the sentiment.

“[Noah] wasn’t even planning on coming over,” Jennifer said. “It was just going to be his wife and kids. He said something just told him to get on his swimming shorts and come on over at that moment. He didn’t even know where our breaker was, but Joe said ‘turn the breaker off,’ and he went right to it the first shot. It’s just strange; everything just worked out.”

The Smiths also want to spread the word of safety around pools and hot tubs, and the importance of knowing CPR.

“People just have to be aware,” said Joe Smith. “Everybody needs to be aware of where your [circuit] breaker is, how hard these things suck, and make sure all covers are on. ”

Newer model hot tubs automatically shut off the pump if there’s any blockage of the intake. The Smiths sold their tub just a few days after Jared’s accident.

“It was a pure accident,” Joe Smith said. “There’s really no one to blame.”

Still, it’s hard to fathom what almost happened.

“You never want to outlive your children,” Jennifer said. “Never. It was the worst experience we ever had.”