A 53-minute miracle: Toddler rescued from drowning

Tue, 12/26/2006 - 3:57pm
By: John Munford

Family celebrates Christmas with medics who saved toddler’s life

Family celebrates Christmas with medics who saved her life

Last month, Fayette County paramedics spent nearly an hour resuscitating a 20-month-old girl who had fallen into a pond and was on the brink of death.

Today that little girl, Madison Mask, is walking, talking and playing in her Peachtree City home “like nothing ever happened,” said her mother, Danielle Mask.

Danielle recalled finding her daughter floating face-down in the lake at her grandmother’s house. She jumped in and pulled Madison out, yelling at her mom to call 911 while she tended to her unconscious daughter.

“She was pale as a ghost,” Danielle remembered. “She was extremely blue around her eyes, nose, mouth and hands. She was frozen.”

As Danielle started CPR, Madison coughed up some water ... and then the paramedics arrived.

“For all practical purposes she was dead,” said Fayette County Deputy Fire Chief Allen McCullough. “I have never seen a child go this far in the death process and have a recovery like that.”

As many as seven paramedics were working on Madison at the same time in the back of the ambulance, with the heater on full blast to warm her up.

They lost Madison’s pulse six different times, McCullough said. A bag infused oxygen into her system. And since starting an IV was difficult the old-fashioned way, a rarely used tactic was employed: placing the IV inside one of Madison’s leg bones so the medicine would flow into her bone marrow, McCullough said.

The medics used CPR to maintain blood flow while they waited for medicine to kick in and get a normal rhythm for Madison’s heart, McCullough said. And they injected a number of different medications to bring her back to life.

While 53 minutes working on one patient is considered a very long time in some circles, McCullough is certain it was the right choice, especially given the capability of the personnel on hand. Between those seven folks, there was easily more than 100 years of collective emergency medical experience, McCullough said.

“It was a top-notch crew,” McCullough said, explaining it was important to completely stabilize Madison before she was taken in the helicopter, which doesn’t have much elbow room to work in.

By the time she was put on the helicopter, Madison had a strong pulse and was able to breathe on her own, McCullough said.

Madison had been so cold that even after she made it to Egleston Children’s Hospital, her first core temperature reading was 88 degrees, well short of the 98.6 “normal” temperature. That was probably a blessing, McCullough said, as the cold likely helped her organs and tissue survive the oxygen deprivation longer. At lower temperatures, the body uses less oxygen, he explained.

Minutes before her mother found her in the lake, Madison had been playing with her 3-year-old brother, Joseph, inside their grandma’s house off Neely Road in north Fayette County. Danielle had been cooking dinner with her mom when they heard the sound of the always-locked glass sliding doors opening and closing. Danielle went to investigate and found Joseph, who knew how to unlock the doors, opening and closing them.

Madison was nowhere to be seen. Danielle shouted her name, but there was no reply.

Danielle instinctively went to the lake and found Madison floating in the water, face down.

One hour later, and Madison was flying in a helicopter to Egleston, her life in the balance.

Madison stayed at Egleston Children’s Hospital for a week. In just two days she was off the respirator, breathing on her own, her mother said. One day after that she was sitting up, “trying to pull out all the IVs and tubes attached to her,” Danielle recalled.

“The people at Egleston Hospital are like gods,” Danielle Mask said. “They are the best children’s hospital in the whole world.”

Madison’s neurologist said the brain scans show up normal, and they also checked her lungs to make sure they were clear, Danielle said. Madison was on antibiotics for a while to make sure pneumonia didn’t set in.

“They did a cat scan on her three or four times, and she’s fine,” Danielle said.

Danielle also reports that her daughter seems to have suffered no ill effects from the trauma.

“She’s completely the same, as if nothing ever happened.”

Looking back, Danielle Mask is surprised at her decision to immediately jump in the lake.

“I think an angel got inside me and pushed me in,” she said. “.. I almost froze when I saw her in the water face down.”

Danielle still can’t bear to look at the picturesque lake in her mom’s backyard, where she has fond memories of fishing with her husband. Grandma Monique McIlhenney has armed every exterior door at her home with an ear-piercing alarm that goes off even if the door is barely cracked open, Danielle reports.

Madison herself, meanwhile, hasn’t shown an aversion to water since she’s been home. In her first bath back from the hospital, she responded like always, “splashing and laughing,” Danielle said.

The Mask family, including dad Jesse, spent part of Christmas day at the nearby fire station, spending time with those who took part in the rescue.

Danielle and her family are grateful for the gift of life Madison got back thanks to the paramedics.

“I thank God every day she’s alive,” Danielle said. “She’s just completely herself.”

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Submitted by whynot on Wed, 12/27/2006 - 9:52pm.

Just wanted to also say thanks to the City of Fayetteville Fire Department for their work in this save as well. They respond first due into Fayette County on various calls and were the first unit on scene to initiate patient care. Good job everyone.

ILuvFayette's picture
Submitted by ILuvFayette on Tue, 12/26/2006 - 6:25pm.

What an exceptionally heart warming story!!! Fayette County really does have the best of the best. My hat goes off to each and every firefighter/EMT/Paramedic involved in this story. A true meaning of the word "heroes".

AF A-10's picture
Submitted by AF A-10 on Wed, 12/27/2006 - 5:49am.

The first responders in our county and PTC are exemplary. I've interacted with them socially and in the "line of duty", and I have always been left with a sense of pride in these individuals. Hats off to our Police, Fire, Paramedic personnel and their admin. You are all greatly appreciated, even if we sometimes seem ungrateful.

Kevin "Hack" King

Xaymaca's picture
Submitted by Xaymaca on Tue, 12/26/2006 - 5:14pm.

That was an amazing story. Hats off to the Rescue crew!

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