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Mom and therapist warn of long-term impacts of near-drownings

PEORIA, AZ (CBS5) - June 15, 2012

In the last two days two Valley toddlers have been rescued from a pool - both reminders to watch your children around water. If those toddlers survive, they can face a lifetime of challenges.

Jan. 16, 2007 is a day Julie Stafford won't ever forget, because it's the day that changed her life, and her now 7-year-old son's life, forever. Joey, who was 1 1/2 years old at the time, crawled through two doggie doors and broke the wooden pool fence. He was under water for about seven minutes, but pulled through the crucial first 72 hours.

"Still thought that when he would open his eyes and when he opened his eyes, that's it, you're done, like TV," Stafford said

But it wasn't like TV - Joey had neurological damage. Years later, he still can't move, eat, or go to the bathroom on his own.

"You're never safe," she said. "Even with the gate. We had a gate around the pool, we took all the precautions, and it still happened."

"If you think it doesn't take a village for a near drowning, think twice," said Michelle Turner, Joey's movement therapist.

She has several patients who are victims of near-drownings. She said a lot of people think after something like that, the child goes to school Monday.

"Surviving can be from complete vegetative stage to max assist to minimal assist to needing some therapy," she said.

Turner and Stafford both want to send a message to parents so that in a blink of an eye, their lives can change forever, too.

"Instead of now hoping he can play soccer with all the other kids who play soccer, it's, gosh, maybe one day he can get in a motorized wheelchair and move himself around," Stafford said. "Maybe one of these days he can tell me what he wants."

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