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Meet Nora, age 5

Mother’s intuition

For Katie Jennings, Father’s Day 2020 started with a cookout, a backyard pool party and a second birthday celebration with close friends. It ended with her worst nightmare — almost losing her then 2-year-old daughter, Nora, to an accidental drowning.

While Katie was inside feeding her four-month-old child, another adult took the rest of the children outside for cupcakes. When the group came back inside, Katie realized she didn’t see Nora.

“I heard a voice in my head saying ‘where’s Nora?’” Katie recalled. “I almost ignored it. Then I heard it again telling me she was in the pool, and it felt so strong.”

Katie yelled for an adult to check the pool. They found Nora floating in the water after she climbed back in unattended.

While Katie’s husband, Ron, pulled Nora from the pool, Katie called 911. Fortunately two of the guests were nurses and administered CPR while the family waited for the paramedics.

“I was in shock,” Katie remembered. “I found myself on my knees, praying and crying, telling Nora to come back to her body because she was gone. She had no heartbeat or anything at this point.”

Critical moments

Katie and Ron followed the ambulance to CHoR’s emergency department and were directed to a family room in the pediatric intensive care unit. Team members updated them on Nora’s progress, informing them she had received a breathing tube, and explained what would happen next. Katie remembers praying with the hospital’s chaplain and the words of one doctor who gave her strength during the first few days.

“He said, ‘don’t sit there and wish you could turn back time or think should’ve, would’ve, could’ve because it’s not going to help Nora.’ That was the one thing that helped me because I would have beaten myself up about it,” Katie recalled.

Although COVID restrictions limited visitors, Katie and Ron stayed with Nora the first 24 hours. For the next 17 days, the couple alternated being with Nora, rarely leaving her side even to rest in the nearby Ronald McDonald family rooms.

Five days after arriving, Nora’s breathing tube was removed. Ron remembered hearing Nora say “mama,” but Nora remained unresponsive. It was another week before she spoke again.

“Nora’s just so wild,” said Katie, who struggled with the change in Nora’s personality in the days after her accident. “She loves life. She’s always smiling. In the hospital, she was sitting there all quiet and just wasn’t herself.”

During this time, Katie appreciated the attention from Nora’s care team. She remembered a resident who, at Katie’s request, shared medical updates with a family member who is a physician, and a nurse who recognized delirium as the reason for Nora’s unresponsiveness. She also praised the child life specialists who brought toys and movies, helped decorate Nora’s room and used hula hoops to play with Nora once she was able to get out of bed.

From PICU to Champion

As she recovered, Nora was examined by physical and occupational therapists to ensure none of her abilities had been impacted when her heart stopped. Because she needed to use a feeding tube, speech therapists trained Katie and Ron on its use so they could manage it at home and continued working with Nora for a couple months after discharge. Katie also used the near-tragedy to educate others about the dangers of drowning — and enroll all four of her children in survival-based swim lessons.

“Children’s Hospital is where my kids need to be if there is an emergency,” Katie said. “The fact that Nora didn’t need to be flown to another location, I think that was part of a fast recovery. The team at Children’s Hospital became like a little mini family while we were there. They were all so supportive.”

Written by Alissa Poole • Young @ Heart

Nora Trotman is our CMN Hospitals’ Champion for 2023!