Thanks to ShaNez Mulliner, my dear friend, client and member of the Livlyhood community for sharing this amazing story.
March 12, 2021… A day I wish never happened, but am also grateful for. How can you be grateful and wish a day never happened all at the same time? This is the day my family’s lives were changed forever and I gained an entirely new perspective on life, specifically work/life balance. It began as a normal Friday, except that we had just moved into a new home 2 weeks prior so we had boxes everywhere, and my 21 month old son was home from daycare as there had been a COVID case in his classroom earlier that week. However, it very quickly became anything BUT a normal day.
My 21 month old son had a non-fatal drowning accident in our pool that morning. I’ll never forget walking outside to find him lying in the pool not breathing. I’m sure our entire neighborhood heard the pain-shrieking sound that came out of my mouth that morning. He had casually walked out of the doggie door with our dog and apparently straight to the pool. My husband performed CPR before the EMTs arrived, and we all know that is what saved our son. The next 10 days were some of the longest of our lives. We owe our son’s life to Dell Children’s Hospital and the amazing men and women who work there. 10 days. We were only in the hospital for 10 days. When we first got there, we didn’t know if we’d be there for days, months, possibly even longer than that. We had no idea what to expect. I rode in the ambulance to the hospital while my husband stayed home to answer questions with the Sheriff & police department. I’ll never forget that ambulance ride or those first few hours at the hospital. Each hour was painstakingly emotional, and the days felt much longer than 24 hours. However, our son is a fighter and knew he had more life to live on this earth. He proved time and time again that he was not leaving us, and to that we are extremely grateful. Over the course of those 10 days we experienced some of the greatest proof that human nature is genuinely empathetic. Our family (who are all located in other states), church community, friends, coworkers, new neighborhood, and many individuals we’d never met (and may never meet) provided us with food, support and love during those trying hours and days. We also felt an overwhelming amount of love and support from my brother-in-law who happened to be in town at the time to help us move into our new home. He provided us with tremendous support by watching our oldest son while we spent 10 days in the hospital. This is partially why this traumatic event turned into a perspective changing event. Both the community coming together to support us and the fact that our son actually survived the accident has led us to re-evaluate our lives and refocus our perspectives.
At the time, I was working remotely and was the only Texas-based employee of my company, but that did not stop my coworkers (who I also call friends) from coming together and sending us meals, cards, phone calls and never-ending support. However, once we came home from the hospital I easily changed my focus on my career and job to more of a means to an end. Work and our careers have always been an important part of both my husband’s and my life.
While I still greatly appreciate and enjoy my career (now at a different company), I have made very clear boundaries as to when I am working and when I am with my family. At the end of the day, a company will succeed without us. They can and will find someone else, because as we’ve all heard, everyone is replaceable. What is not replaceable is the time you spend with your family.
You truly never know when accidents may strike and your family member whom you love and care about will not be there any longer for that hug, phone call, text, or playtime. I take my vacation time, and enjoy disconnecting from work, which was a very hard thing for me in the past. I separate my hours during my day that are meant for time with my family. I’ll take some self-care time and go to my therapist, workout, or even occasionally get a massage during work hours. No, I am not a bad employee (which I would have thought prior to this accident). I am setting boundaries & making sure I can be as successful as possible by focusing on myself and my family, as well as my career.
Our son is almost 4 years old now, and if you met him, you’d have no idea what happened to him 2 years ago. He’s living proof that modern medicine, prayers, and support can change someone’s life. I know this isn’t the case for everyone, and this is another perspective changing moment for me. I’ve spent the last 2 years supporting our local fire department and EMTs, learning about Infant Swimming Resource (ISR) lessons, and other ways to give back to the community who gave so much to my family.
As Sheryl Sandberg puts it, “Offering support through personal hardships helps employees become more committed to their companies. We need to rethink our public and corporate policies to make sure women and men get the time off they need to care for themselves and their families.” This trauma has led me to be more resilient, supportive, and vulnerable at work with my coworkers. I share our story often with many people in hopes that it will encourage two things: One - focus on water safety at all times. You never know when an accident will happen. Install the pool fence around your home pool (ours was installed while we were in the hospital), dedicate an adult to watch the pool when children are playing in or near it, and always remain vigilant, no matter what age your children are. And two - I hope that we all can use this traumatic event to reexamine our perspective and provide support to our friends, colleagues and communities.