Each year, approximately 1,500 children in the U.S. drown. Despite popular conceptions, not all drownings occur in lakes or pools, often they occur in bathtubs, buckets and other places people may not consider to be immediate threats.
That was almost the case for a little Michiana boy who survived a near-drowning incident and is now thriving thanks to expert care from physicians and, as his parents and doctors are convinced, a little help from above.
Owen Lambert and his family plans on being front and center at the upcoming Hearts of Gold Walk, hoping to help raise money to help the children who benefit from Memorial Children’s Hospital.
Now sitting in their home, surrounded by photos of a family complete---with his wife and both sons, Micah Lambert describes the horrible day more than four years ago when he couldn't find his toddler son.
It was a sick feeling many parents have experienced whether at home or in the grocery store.
“I was playing swords with my oldest son and his nephews and Owen who had just learned to walk was outside with them,” says Micah, “the next thing I know I didn't know where he was…that's when I started panicking and went inside and said, where is Owen, is he in here and he said no I haven't seen him and that's when I started freaking out.”
Micah's wife Jennifer was in Indianapolis at the time doing a mini triathlon with his sister.
There was no pool in his brother's yard, but an old fashioned bathtub, flush with the ground that was hauled away by neighbors that very day. It was supposed to have been turned into a decorative pond.
Jennifer says you couldn't see the pool due to the way their backyard was terraced off.
In fact, in his search for Owen, Micah had walked right by it. The family, including Micah's parents, all lived within a block of one another and in minutes a search was on. A neighbor found Owen in the still unfinished pond. No one knew there was water in it, but it had rained that week.
As Micah describes it, “The neighbor across the street who is a retired nurse came out and she actually found him, she though it was a doll and she just said I need to look at this and so she reached down and it was him.”
Owen was rushed to the closest hospital--Elkhart General.
“On the ambulance ride there they could not get a heartbeat, they were shocking him and giving him shots and couldn't get any signs of life.”
Micah called Jennifer in Indianapolis but got her voice mail. His brother got ahold of their sister who was with her.
Jennifer describes feeling a sense of “immediate devastation.” She says she spent the three hour car ride back home wailing and being uncertain as to what exactly was going wrong.
While Jennifer made the long trip home, Owen was transferred to Memorial's Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. When the couple finally met with doctor's the news was horrific.
“The first thing the doctor told me was you need to pray for a miracle because this doesn't look good and he tried to be honest and I remember immediately dropping to the floor,” said Jennifer.
It was a waiting game, and the Lambert's were told to prepare for Owen's little organs to start shutting down.
But, against all odds and hope, Owen started to respond, shocking even the doctors.
According to Jennifer, “he just seemed to improve miraculously day by day and everyone was shocked, I think they all expected him to pass away.”
Doctors at Memorial wanted to give Owen the best chance at life, and suggested intensive all day therapy at Peyton Manning Children's Hospital in Indianapolis where Owen again exceeded the doctor's expectations.
And for the second time the Lambert's heard the "M" word from a doctor, who even suggested they rename their son, Lazarus.
“He said and I always get choked up, and he said your son's a miracle and he's done more for me than I could ever do for him,” says Micah.
Owen was back at Memorial one month later where he continued intensive day long therapy and four years later spends his time like most 5 year-olds. He goes to preschool and loves playing football, yes, even in the house.
The Lambert’s are forever grateful for the care he got at Memorial. Care they believe, along with some divine intervention, saved their son's life and gave him quality of life.
Owen was blessed to not have any structural brain damage, but he did suffer a brain injury such that his family will work with memorial and the schools to make sure he gets the extra help he needs.
Micah is an assistant principal at Hawthorne Elementary in Elkhart, he says he is confident Owen will be able to stay on track.
While Owen still needs some therapy, they are positive his hardest days are behind him, ”I think he's going to have a very full and joyful life,” says Jennifer.
The family plans to help give back to the hospital that helped their family so much, they plan on taking part in this year’s Hearts of Gold walk so they can “pay it forward.” The walk kicks off at 7:30 a.m. on February 9 at the University Park Mall.