While on vacation in Alabama two months ago, 3-year-old Levi drowned in a swimming pool. His family had just finished dinner inside their beach house when the little boy wandered outside, made it through the fence surrounding the pool and fell in. Even though there were several physicians in the house who rushed to Levi’s side — including his father — they were unable to revive him.
“In the days after we lost Levi, when we were forced to stumble forward without our baby boy, I started researching,” Nicole Hughes said. “Why did I not know drowning is the leading cause of death for children younger than 4? Of course, I knew drowning was a potential danger. But why did I not know about the dangers of drowning during non-swimming times? How did I not know it took less than one minute?
“If Levi’s story can spare someone else this heartache, then it’s a better use of my time than sitting at home missing him.”
Shortly after losing her son, Hughes created Levi’s Legacy in his honor. The nonprofit educates parents and families about water safety and provides Water Guardian tags, which serve as a tangible reminder to adults to keep an eye on children any time they’re near water and to stay within arm’s reach. The adult in charge of looking after children wears the Water Guardian tag at all times, even if children aren’t swimming and are inside. The tag is the size of a credit card and comes with a lanyard.
Hughes recently met with Niswonger Children’s Hospital to expand the distribution of Water Guardian tags. Through a grant, the hospital’s Children’s Resource Center was able to purchase 3,000 tags, which will be distributed for free at events and throughout the community, upon request.
“Drowning is 100 percent preventable, which is why Niswonger Children’s Hospital is putting more emphasis on water safety than ever before. We’re planning to do more drowning prevention education at schools and through community programs,” said Tara Chadwell, director of the Children’s Resource Center.
That focus on safety and childhood trauma prevention is a key function of the Children’s Resource Center, which aims to improve community health through targeted outreach and support programs.
The center also works with healthcare providers, schools and community agencies to engage children and families in healthy behaviors, help them navigate complex health challenges and connect them to resources and support networks that can best meet their needs.
“The unfortunate misconception about drowning is that parents or adults will notice it happening, and the child will be able to splash and call out for help,” said Lisa Carter, chief executive officer of Niswonger Children’s Hospital and Ballad Health’s associate vice president of pediatric services. “Tragically, though, drownings are mostly silent, and they’re fast — 77 percent of child victims are out of sight for five minutes or less.
“By working with Levi’s Legacy, we’re honoring the life and memory of this little boy by making more adults accountable for children’s safety. We can’t thank Nicole and the Hughes family enough for channeling their emotions into such a remarkable effort, which has the potential to save countless children’s lives.”
Water Guardian tags are available at events attended by the Children’s Resource Center, or they can be requested by calling Chadwell at (423) 431-4891. More information about Levi’s Legacy can be found at www.levislegacy.com, and information about Niswonger Children’s Hospital can be found at www.balladhealth.org/children.