Travis AndersonFriday, July 13, 2012 was the day 9-year-old Travis Anderson drowned in the Pilchuck River near Snohomish, Wash. It was also the day that his mother, Kim, and the emergency team at Seattle Children’s saved his life.

Travis, a wiry redhead, was wading in a shallow portion of the river, near his mom, his brother and sister, and his best friend. He lost his footing. The current swept him downstream and beneath a log, where he became trapped under water. Kim and Travis’s older brother Jacob couldn’t free him. After a few minutes, a bystander helped shift the log, and Kim pulled her youngest child to the river bank.

Travis was a ghostly pale gray, his eyes half open. Blue lips and purple circles around his eyes indicated cyanosis, a lack of oxygen in the blood. He was unresponsive, with no pulse. Kim began CPR while her daughter called 911.

“I know CPR and I performed it ferociously,” Kim says. When firefighters arrived, they continued CPR and intubated Travis to open his airway. Soon, a Life Flight helicopter arrived and transported Travis to Seattle Children’s Emergency Department (ED).

Kim and her husband, Ken, arrived at the ED as Travis was getting a CT scan to assess if there’d been damage to his neck and spine. Amazingly, there wasn’t. “Travis was surrounded by so many people, and so much machinery,” Kim recalls. “He looked badly beaten up from being trapped under the log, and he was bruised from the chest compressions. But his color was better — he just looked like he was asleep.”

Travis Anderson recovery

Cold, shaking, and still wet from the river, Kim approached one of the physicians. “I asked him very directly if Travis would survive,” she recalls. “I felt sure he would say yes. But that doctor looked me straight in the eyes and said ‘We don’t know yet.’ I was shocked by that response. But I appreciated that he respected me enough to answer so honestly.”

Kim doesn’t remember a lot about their time in the emergency department. “I remember the staff positioning chairs right behind where Ken and I were standing, in case we collapsed. They brought me some sweatpants and a sweatshirt. I was so grateful to have dry clothes. I remember a lot of staff around us, and that everyone I talked to answered my questions.”

A long recovery

After undergoing a number of tests and procedures, Travis was transferred to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, where he would spend almost two weeks — nearly all that time in a medically induced coma, on a ventilator. He spent an additional week on the medical unit and the physical rehab floor. He was discharged home 23 days after drowning.

Travis Anderson near-drowningToday, Travis — an active fourth-grader who goes by the unlikely nickname “Moose” — is back to normal in every way. Tests show no signs of brain damage, and there are no outward signs of the trauma he’s been through. He is back at Children’s periodically, and has had surgeries there to clear the scar tissue that builds up in his trachea, a side-effect of being intubated for so long.

Kim has become a vocal proponent of CPR training. “I tell everyone I know, if you want to be my friend, you have to learn CPR,” she laughs.

While Travis was at Children’s, Kim and Ken Anderson found themselves talking a lot about how extraordinary the medical staff is. “We just couldn’t believe how super-smart and competent and compassionate everyone is. They all clearly love their jobs. We don’t know what system Children’s uses for recruiting and hiring, but whatever they’re doing, it’s working. It saved our Travis.”

 

Learn more

Children’s new emergency department in Building Hope will open at 7 a.m. Tuesday, April 23.

If you’d like to arrange an interview with the Andersons or a Children’s water safety expert, please contact Children’s PR team at 206-987-4500 or atpress@seattlechildrens.org.