WARNER ROBINS -- Aby Westbrooks, 7, can lay claim to having saved a life, and her act could lead to others being saved as well.
On May 16 she spotted her 3-year-old nephew lying unresponsive in the family swimming pool, then proceeded to calmly pull him out of the water and perform CPR. Her compressions forced the water from his lungs and revived him.
Her actions have prompted the Houston Healthcare Emergency Medical Service to set up a free CPR class for children. Company officials also plan to give Aby an award.
The date for the class has not be set. Although it won’t be for certification, it will give children an idea of how to perform CPR it if they ever need to, said Brenda Kosar, assistant EMS supervisor.
“Kids can do a lot more than people think they can,” she said.
It’s not unusual, she said, for children to be calmer in a medical emergency than adults, perhaps because they don’t fully grasp the concept of death.
Aby’s mom, Kim Weathington, said they were having a birthday party when the near-tragedy occurred. Weathington said she keeps a close watch on children around the pool, but the adults were briefly distracted. One of the children had brought out a pet turtle and they discovered it was dead. The few minutes they were looking at the turtle, only about 25 feet from the pool, was enough time for the events to unfold.
Somehow, Weathington’s 3-year-old grandson, Anthony Matlock, got out of the floatation device he was wearing and ended up in the pool. Aby was swimming with other children when they spotted Anthony floating. She immediately went to the unresponsive boy and pulled him from the pool.
“I was very, very scared,” Aby said. “I thought he was dead when I saw him.”
She told two other children there to get the adults, but they didn’t want to leave her side.
She did a couple of rescue breaths, then did a few chest compressions, and on the last one he vomited water. About that time the adults realized what was happening, and one of them did a couple of more chest compressions to get more water from Anthony’s lungs.
He then began breathing again. Weathington, an emergency room nurse, was still concerned and called an ambulance. Anthony was taken to the hospital and checked out, but he was determined to be fine.
Anthony was right back to swimming the next day, with a life vest on, and was joyfully swimming again Friday as they recounted the story.
Anthony’s mother, Kristen Matlock, said she would have preferred that the children yelled at the adults when they discovered Anthony, but she was grateful for Aby’s action.
“I still get chill bumps just talking about it,” she said, holding out her arm. “It was the scariest thing that ever happened to me.”
Weathington said she hopes as people get into the swimming season, they will see from the incident how quickly things can go wrong around a pool. She had always tried to be careful, she said, but now there are some new rules her family will abide by. Those include having an adult designated at all times to be watching the pool, and no cell phones are allowed around the pool. Looking at a cellphone is too much of a distraction, she said.
She also plans on getting Anthony, who loves to get in the water, some swimming lessons.
“It happened so quick,” she said. “It wasn’t that we weren’t watching the children. I want people to realize that within seconds something can happen.”
Weathington said she has never trained Aby to do CPR, but they have watched a lot of medical training videos together and she apparently picked up enough to know what to do.
Aby said she wants to be a veterinarian, a singer and an actor.
“She might become two of those,” said Bry Westbrooks, Weathington’s 10-year-old son.
To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.