By Gina Mayfield
In May 2019, just as San Antonio, Texas, started to heat up for the summer, Adam Biechlin decided to take his two kids for a swim while his girlfriend, Jennifer, finished making dinner. As he was heading out the door, he had a fleeting thought that barely registered in his mind: It’s always better not to be outnumbered by kids at the pool. And off they went.
That day, wind ripped around the 21-floor condominium tower where Jennifer lives, but Adam made it to the ground floor pool where he watched his 5-year-old daughter, Eleanor, do handstands in the water and played catch with his 3-year-old son, Max.
Eventually, Jennifer texted to say dinner was ready, and Adam called for both kids and watched them come running out of the water. He began collecting their belongings, which the wind had strewn across a small area, when Eleanor asked for just one more “Watch this, Dad!” moment.
Adam, who had turned his back for a few seconds knowing both kids had cleared the pool, turned back around. Then it hit him.
“I didn’t see Max,” he remembers. “I said, ‘Where’s your brother?’ Eleanor turned completely pale. My heart just sank. And then it started racing.”
Adam ran toward the pool and found Max floating face first in just 4 feet of water.
“It was an indescribable feeling,” Adam says.
He just remembers thinking, ”This is not happening. This can’t happen. This is not going to happen.”
Adam pulled Max from the pool. “He was like a sack of potatoes. His face was white, his eyes were closed, his lips were blue,” Adam says. “I just started screaming at the top of my lungs for someone to call 911.” But there wasn’t anybody around. “I had to do something,” he says.
Adam laid Max on the ground and began performing CPR. Turns out Adam’s cousin is married to longtime American Heart Association employee, Kelly Griesenbeck Carter, who had offered Adam and other relatives an Infant CPR class right before Eleanor was born. Everything he learned that day came rushing back to him.
After several attempts to revive Max, nothing seemed to help. So, Adam scooped him up and ran through a gate into a patio area where they found an elderly doctor they knew.
Once again Adam laid Max on the ground and began chest compressions, while the doctor stood watch.
“Keep going Dad, you’re doing alright,” the doctor said.
Then it happened. Max projectile vomited the Slurpee he had enjoyed earlier that day all over Adam.
“It was the most wonderful feeling,” Adam says with a smile of that first sign of recovery. Then, Max took a breath and started crying.
About that time, the paramedics arrived. (Residents as high as eight stories up had heard Adam’s frantic cries for help and called 911.) They checked Max’s vitals and rushed him off to the local children’s hospital.
It was there that Adam learned what had happened during the 10 seconds his back was turned. “I got blown in,” Max still explains to this day. Yes, that heavy wind had literally blown him right into the water as he was running.
Today, he’s a perfectly happy and healthy 5-year-old – and a strong swimmer. But about a month after the incident Adam learned how truly fortunate he was that he took that Infant CPR class all those years ago.
He ran into the doctor who had stood over him while he performed CPR at the pool that day. The doctor pulled Adam aside and said, “I just want to tell you, Dad, you did a great job because that boy was dead.”
In the year that has followed that fateful day, Adam has become an evangelist for CPR in his Alamo Heights community, warning other parents not to be lulled into a false sense of security at even a crowded community pool, often staffed by teenage lifeguards who are just kids themselves.
“Pay attention and stay hypervigilant near the water,” he says. “This happened in 10 seconds. Ten seconds. Things change in the blink of an eye.”