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SALT LAKE CITY — Many people are enjoying the Fourth of July holiday by the pool with family and friends, but if you're not careful the fun could end in only a matter of seconds.
Seven-year-old Archer Rugh is no stranger to the water, but two years ago he nearly drowned.
“There were maybe seven kids, three moms, who were all in the pool swimming with the kids," said Betha Rugh, Archer’s mother.
She was right next to him in the pool when the accident happened. "And just a minute later my oldest son turned to me and said, 'Mom, where's Archer?'" Rugh said.
They found him at the bottom of the pool in the deep end. When they pulled him out, his mom said he had no heartbeat and wasn't breathing. “He was blue. His eyes were crazy. He was gone — I thought the worst," she said.
Rugh's friend, Tara Learned, immediately started CPR on Archer. She said it was the scariest thing she’s ever done, but fortunately he started breathing again.
Learned said she was grateful she knew how to perform CPR. “It's a skill that you don't want to have to use. But if you need to use it, you want to know how to do it," she explained. “It saved his life.”
Paramedics rushed him to Primary Children's Hospital, where he stayed for the next two weeks. "He couldn't talk and he couldn't move, he couldn't really do anything," Rugh said.
Archer had to relearn how to walk and talk. His mother said watching him make progress was like watching a newborn baby reach new milestones all over again. “He was able to go to the bathroom, he could eat solid foods, he was opening his eyes," she said.
Today, Archer is perfectly healthy. Intermountain Healthcare's Marilyn Morris, pediatric community outreach specialist at Primary Children’s Hospital, said Archer's story teaches an important lesson.
Morris said drowning doesn't always look like what you'd expect. “They're usually not screaming because they're fighting so desperately for air," she said.
Instead, it may look like a child is bobbing up and down or slapping the water to try to stay afloat.
Rugh said that was the case when her son started to drown. “There was no, like, 'Oh my gosh, he needs help.' It was just really quiet," she said.
Morris urged parents to designate an official water watcher. “Their job is to stay off the phone, not talk to people, just be there and watch all of the kids," she explained.
She also suggested kids wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life vest. She discouraged parents from putting their kids in inflatable water wings because they could pop or slide off.
Today, Archer knows the rules his parents have set: He has to wear a life vest on the deep end of the pool.
His parents said they feel blessed he is still alive. “He was in a wheelchair one day, and six days later he was walking out of the hospital," his mother said. “It’s a serious miracle!”
Morris said drowning can happen even in your own home. She urged parents to supervise their kids in the bathtub and inflatable wading pools. Intermountain Healthcare and the Red Cross offer CPR classes throughout the state.