May 14, 2019

The Story of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

Our family’s experience with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and why we are partnering with this local hospital on water safety and CPR.

I thought I should fill you in on a little background information before telling you how my speech went at Children’s last week. It’s a somewhat wild story with all sorts of moments of perfect timing.

Tony and I started dating in high school (met in middle school) and one of his good buddies played in the band, too. (I was on the dance team, but knew all the same people because of marching band.) When Tony’s brother, Todd, died unexpectedly about 2 years ago, this friend contacted Tony (was friends with Todd as well) and they struck up a friendship again. Turns out, he lives nearby and they began having lunch or coffee every now and then.

Last summer, it just so happened that both of our families were vacationing at the same time on nearby beaches. The guys, and some of our kids, went fishing together one day.

About a month later, Josie’s accident occurred. On the way to the hospital, Tony contacted our friend and said “I’m not sure what I’m asking, but we are on the way to Children’s”.

You see? This friend works on the administration side of Children’s.

At the time, that fact just seemed coincidental.

A month or two after the accident, Tony and our friend were having lunch/coffee and the friend says something along the lines of, “I’m not sure if you’re interested or not, but Children’s is in the beginning stages of a water safety campaign. If you’d like, I’ll put you in contact with the coordinator.”

Well, yes!

We end up meeting at Children’s with the team that is putting together this new program, just in time for summer; May being the launch date since it is Water Safety Month. They initiated this program because, of course, water safety is so important; however, also because of a donor who lives in Atlanta that lost their child to drowning. Through the hospital and that donor, they are getting the message out (via social media, news outlets, blogs, etc.) about how to be safe around water. They are also offering swimming lessons through local metro Atlanta YMCAs and putting billboards around town with water safety tips and strategies.

Of course, we were very excited about this program, but were concerned that maybe caregivers would assume that swimming lessons were enough. That if their child took a couple of swimming lessons and such, that he/she would be immune to drowning. When sadly, that’s not the case. We started to tell our story and brought up the idea of offering CPR to caregivers as well because that is the one thing that went through our minds….we can’t save our own child. Therefore, we partnered with Children’s as well not only because we are now big advocates for water safety and CPR, but also because we absolutely adore this hospital and all the good they are doing in our communities.

That meeting led to Children’s asking if I would write out the story of what happened that day. I said, “well, what’dya know, I have already written it down on our family blog”. The water safety team members read the blog, including the follow up post about Josie swimming now, and from there it just snowballed.

We did a phone interview, then was asked to speak in front of administrative staff (last Monday). And most recently? Asked to be interviewed by WSBTV-Channel 2 Action News. WHICH IS TOMORROW!!

All that to say, what seemed like a random reconnection with our old high school friend? Turned out to be something really amazing that God had in the works all along. What are the chances that he works with Children’s and that they were in the beginning stages of the water safety program when her accident happened?!

On the day we thought we would lose our child, finding her unconscious in the pool, not knowing CPR…we had NO IDEA why that happened to us. An incredibly normal family with no major accidents. Why us? That’s what we kept asking. And now we have figured that out.

It’s to tell the story and urge YOU to enroll in swimming lessons and a CPR course, but also to encourage those reading this, and hearing the story, that IT CAN HAPPEN TO YOU.

Now, after that long word vomit….here’s the update on the speech I gave at the hospital last Monday.

Tony said there were about 250 people there. Which, I don’t know, they were all blurry blobs to me, but I do know that it was way more than the 20 something during my speech on the hairbrush at Mercer University. (GO BEARS) I spoke for about 15-20 minutes I guess (also going on what Tony said because it’s kind of a blur) and Tony held Josie and stood behind me. They put a huge photo of her up on their screen-thingy (see? Why did God choose me? I don’t even know what that is called) and she looked at it like “WTH am I doing up there?” Anyway, they laughed at all of my jokes and cried a bit, too. I admitted to stealing their toddler-sized hospital gown, but hopefully made up for it by telling them that the popsicles they offer are really yummy. I did get teary-eyed, but I don’t think a tear ACTUALLY DROPPED down my cheek and afterward they all stood and clapped. Later, a water safety team member told me she would be contacting me for more speaking engagements. I didn’t even pass out at that comment, but instead said “I’d love to!”. What in the world has come over me?!

The only thing I can say? Is it’s God. If you told me 4 months ago that I’d be speaking publicly about this?


But the timing and how this has all played out is nothing short of amazing. So I’m going to do whatever He tells me to do in order to get this message out.

And I hope everyone likes my TJ MAXX dress and sweater on WSBTV tomorrow. (because that’s another thing I hardly ever do….wear a dress!)

(If you’re looking for water safety tips and CPR training, please follow the links in this post or at the bottom of the page)

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  1. Tonya says:

    I’m so proud of you!!! Your story and actions are saving lives!!! 

  2. Cassie says:

    This is amazing Melissa!  I was telling my sister in law and another friend about Josie’s story and the things you have been writing about  this month and we are all planning on doing a CPR class together!  Thank you!

  3. Tina Collier says:

    So proud of you my friend, and I hope this Godly orchestrated event helps to provide great healing for you and Tony. I guess you don’t always need red lipstick and a big smile to perform in front of others! 

  4. Jamie Townsend says:

    You are such an amazing and inspiring person, Melissa!  I’m very proud of you and what you are accomplishing through this testimony!