New Zealand: Ruby

Child injuries: the stories behind the statistics
December 2008

On Christmas eve of 2006, Ruby's parents discovered that their 14-month-old baby was missing. She was soon found face down in their home pool: grey, lifeless and without a heartbeat.

Ruby was pulled from the water and her father Scott began cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Her mother Amanda called an ambulance. Although the ambulance took 40 minutes to arrive, during this time the girl was helped by a family friend trained as a medical doctor. After some effort, and to everyone’s relief, Ruby's heart began to beat and she was rushed to hospital.

Ruby was given a 10% chance of survival. Scott and Amanda were warned that if she did survive, long-term brain damage was highly likely. But after spending Christmas day in an induced coma and three weeks in the paediatric intensive care unit, against all odds, Ruby made a miraculous recovery.

Ruby slowly regained her strength. She learned to crawl and walk again and has begun to talk. Her fine motor skills were affected so she visits an occupational therapist and physiotherapist every two weeks. Her family in New Zealand have been told that if there is any long-term neurological damage it may become evident when Ruby starts school.

Although Ruby’s survival is not typical of children who have experienced a non-fatal drowning incident, the circumstances in which it occurred are very common. A lapse in adult supervision even for very short periods of time is a major contributing factor to children drowning.

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Family photo of Ruby with her parents and elder sister Abby.
Ruby with her parents and elder sister Abby.