Mom, Whose Son Drowned, Creates Life-Saving Product To Prevent More Tragedies

"By creating Levi's Legacy, I have added new chapters to his story. "

When tragedy strikes, it can be devastating. Families are often immobilized by grief. However, for one mother, her son Levi's sudden death helped motivate her to take action and help prevent similar tragedies in the future.

On June 10, Nicole Hughes and her family were vacationing with five other families in Fort Morgan, Ala., like they did every year, for an annual beach trip. Although the adults believed Levi was watching TV with the rest of the kids as they waited until it was dark enough to go crab hunting, the 3-year-old boy somehow slipped out the door, went down the stairs, and got into the pool. His mother found him minutes later, but it was too late. Friends tried desperately to save him before he was airlifted to Mobile Children's Hospital, but Levi ultimately died in the early morning hours of June 11, 2018.

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Yet, while Hughes and her family — Levi's father, Jonathan, and his two sister, Lily, 9. and Reese, 5, — grieved, as any family would after such an unexpected loss, this Tennessee mother was also determined to cement her son's legacy by sharing his story and spreading awareness around how common and quick drowning can be. Thus, Hughes established Levi's Legacy. Created in his memory, this website offers information and resources on how to prevent others from drowning

"I cannot get Levi back. If lying in bed and crying would bring him back, I would never leave my bed," Hughes told A Plus. "Every single day since June 10, I have heard news of other children drowning. My already-shattered heart felt even more broken with each drowning death." 

"I knew I could not sit back all summer and not at least try to spread awareness about the real truth about drowning," she added. "I won't have any new stories about my son. He will not have any more chapters in his life. By creating Levi's Legacy, I have added new chapters to his story."

As part of this next chapter, Hughes introduced a life-saving tool designed to help curb future drowning deaths. Known as the Water Guardian, this simple tag serves as an indicator of who's watching over the children at all times. Whether the children are explicitly swimming or within close proximity to water, the Water Guardian tag provide a tangible reminder or who's in charge.

"Multiple barriers are important when it comes to preventing drowning," Hughes explained to A Plus. "Fences, alarms, doors, swimming lessons are all important. But, constant supervision is the most important method to prevent drowning." 

"The Water Guardian tag provides a tangible reminder of who is in charge of supervising," she added. "Instead of just causally asking someone 'hey, can you watch the kids for a minute,' the Water Guardian tag provides designated, purposeful supervision. It is also a reminder to watch children when they have access to water, even when they are NOT swimming. Sixty-nine percent of children who drown do so during a non-designated swim time, like when parents are cleaning up from after dinner, or when they are unloading the car at a beach house."

"The research consistently proves there is no alternative to supervision when it comes to water safety," Hughes told USA Today. "Levi got out of a heavy door and the pool had a fence. And, both of his parents — and several other adults — were in the room when he slipped away for a  moment."

"Knowing Levi's story, my heart feels so harmed," BJ Fisher, director of health and safety for American Lifeguard Association, Inc., which endorsed the Water Guardian, told USA Today. "We feel this is a truly worthy cause, and it's a movement that really will save a lot of lives."

According to the Centers for Disease Control CDC, drowning is a leading cause of unintentional death in children, while the Consumer Product Safety Commission notes that 77 percent of drowning victims had been out of sight for less than five minutes. Thus, while Hughes said she and her family "would choose all of this over again, just to have had these three years with him," they're determined to remember Levi by reminding other families to ignore assumptions and ensure someone's observing the children.

"I took water safety seriously. My children were always in life jackets, they took swim lessons, I always watched them carefully when swimming," Hughes said. "I wish I had known that a child can drown in 30 seconds, that it is silent, and that there is not often a struggle."

"Drowning needs to be part of our national culture. We need to shift our mindset in how we look at water. Yes, water is fun, but water is also deadly," she added. "Teach your children to respect water. Remember that a child can drown in a tiny amount of water — a bucket, a ditch filled with rain water, a pool, a pond, an ocean. Please be aware of the silent, ruthless killer that is drowning."

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