Dear God, Please Save Max {A Near Drowning Event}


Dear God, please save Max.

These words were on repeat as I walked around and around his lifeless body. I felt like I was echoing it in my head, but in reality, I was shouting it from the depths of my being, “Dear God, please save Max!”

I saw him swimming 90 seconds prior; he was laughing and smiling. I did the, “Where is Max?” check, and then scanned for Eli; both boys accounted for. As I completed my check, a young man in our youth group asked me what time it was. Looking back, this was just another way that God was preparing to save Max. I had to contort my neck to see the side of the house that had a clock on it, looking around the umbrella that was blocking the sun.

“5:45,” I turned around and answered the young man. He asked when we were leaving to go home and how much time he had left to swim. I answered him and made sure he understood when we were leaving to go back home. He asked a few more details and then went back to swimming.

I heard from the side of pool where my boys were swimming the words that will forever haunt me. “Miss Cheryl, Max is unresponsive.” I immediately jumped up and ran to the side of the pool. I screamed to my husband, “Tony… it’s Max!”

Tony grabbed him from the pool with the help of some girls in our youth group and lifted his lifeless body out of the water and onto the ground.

Dear God, please save Max.


What he looked like as he was laying on the ground will forever be etched in my core memories. He was limp and the edges of his mouth were blue. A feeling of horror filled my whole body and I began shouting and praying and pleading with God.

In what seemed like hours, but was only seconds, people God had placed intentionally to be there sprang into action. A dear friend who is a retired police officer ran to assist my husband, and my dear friend who is a nurse sprang into action. They put Max on his side and began rubbing his arms and legs and back and trying to bring him to. One of the girls in our youth group said, “Who is calling 911?” and our friend was already on it. Someone suggested CPR, but Max had a pulse.

I froze and couldn’t do anything but circle around his body yelling, “Please God, save Max.”

He began coughing, and then water spewed from his mouth forcefully. He was saying, “Help me, help me.” He then vomited violently and then seemed to be coherent again. Surrounded by amazing people that God had ordained to be there, he was getting the very best care he needed.

I was still pleading with God and by this time, after trying to touch Max and rub his feet and kiss his head and do SOMETHING, I needed to get out of the way. I sat in the grass surrounded by a handful of teens and asked them to pray, pleading with them to ask God to save Max. This group of teens came around me and held my hand, comforted Eli and prayed for a miracle.

Dear God, please save Max.

Max began to talk and our friends were asking him questions. I was now standing close to him, reassuring him that he was ok and he was able to recognize my dear friend who was helping him. Max was able to remember where he was and that he needed help. My friend’s husband came over to me and told me Max was going to be alright and held me tightly.

The ambulance came and began checking Max. I remember feeling like everything was in slow motion now, and all I wanted was to hold him and tell him how much I loved him. The paramedics put him on a stretcher, secured his neck and told us they recommend taking him to Dayton Children’s Hospital to be checked out. The paramedics walked us through what would happen and some tests they would need to run to make sure Max was ok.

I rode in the ambulance with Max, and my husband and Eli followed.

Dear God, please save Max.

In the ambulance, Max began talking more. Paramedic Ashley was checking his vitals and asking questions to gain as much information as she could. She asked Max what had happened and he explained he was trying to get to the other side of the pool and he couldn’t make it and began swallowing water and sinking. He explained to her that this was actually the most exciting thing that had ever happened to him. Amidst the tragedy, she and I began to laugh.

Max was tired, so we talked to him the entire ambulance ride to keep him awake. He was trying to process things that had happened and was putting the pieces together for us. By the time we got to the emergency room, Max was acting like himself. We were taken into to the ER and upon first look, he was taken out of the neck stabilizer and was able to sit up. Doctor after doctor came in and all accessed Max and said he looked good. We were observed for a few hours, doctors determined that he didn’t need any of the follow-up tests and were totally amazed at how amazing Max looked and sounded. He was cracking jokes with the ER doc and then was telling us he was hungry and how upset he was he threw up his dinner.

Our family drove home from the ER that night and we were in disbelief at what had just happened. 

My husband and I looked at each other but couldn’t express what we were feeling. That night we let Max sleep with us so we could keep an eye out for a few of the things the ER doctor told us to watch for. I held Max all night long. He screamed, “Help me, help me,” in his sleep and this would become a regular occurrence for the nights to follow.

The next morning, Max was eating breakfast and happened to glance at the discharge papers from the hospital the night before and read out loud, “Near drowning!” He had lots of questions and we began processing what had happened to him and putting the details together.

This tragic event and all that it entails is far from over for our family. We are still working through all of the emotions. Everything we play with becomes a scene for saving someone or someone drowning and we are obsessed with the story of the Titanic. We let the boys talk about it whenever they feel the need.

There is parent guilt in big ways. What did we miss? Where did we go wrong?

Max still has questions. “Why did no one help me? Why when I screamed did no one hear me?”

We are still putting the pieces together and answering the questions. 90 seconds changed our life forever.

It has almost been a month since Max’s near drowning, and we will never be the same. Some stories like this do not end the way that Max’s story did. We are forever grateful for everyone that was there and the way they all worked to help Max and our entire family.

We have traumatized an entire youth group of kids that witnessed the events of that night, and we have bonded with that same entire youth group of kids that will never be the same either. They heard my plea to God over and over again as I circled Max’s body and prayed and they witnessed a miracle.

Dear God, thank you for saving Max.

With all children up to age 14, drowning is the number two cause of accidental deaths. Read these resources on how you can help prevent drowning incidents:

3 Tips for Water Safety from our Sister Site in Louisville, Kentucky

Drowning: Know the Signs; Save a Life from our Sister Site in Cincinnati

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Hey local mommas! I grew up in Centerville, but I now live in Wilmington with my husband Tony. Together we have 6 kids, Joe, and his wife Allison, Austin, and his wife Hannah, Sydney and her husband Hayden, Andrew and his wife Lauren and our littles, Max and Eli. Did I mention we are a little nuts starting over with this parenting thing when we are 45+? We are officially adding new titles to our names in 2022- Tiki and Jeep (our version of Grandma and Grandpa). My husband and I are both ministers, and we get to work together in a local church. We were both married before and brought our families together in 2010. After a few years of marriage we felt God's leading for us to adopt. We added Max to our family in 2014 and Eli joined us in 2017, our quiver is officially full! Blending our family has been an adventure! Add some ex-spouses and two birth mommas and we have ourselves a crazy crew! Coffee is my love language. The beach is my happy place and I long to have my toes in the sand. I love being part of the team at Dayton Mom Collective.


  1. Cheryl – thank you for the bravery in sharing this story. It takes just a second and drowning is often so quiet that it is easy to miss. I am so thankful for you that your Max is okay. In the midst of an incredibly hot summer – thank you for sharing your story so that others may read this, also. And yes, thank you, God, for saving Max. Sending you healing thoughts.

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