It was 6.30pm on New Year’s Eve. I was walking with my son Lachlan along the estuary by the boats at Mallacoota in the huge caravan park.
It was a beautiful evening and my cooking duties at our Beach Mission were over for the day.
The water was clear and I could see the bottom, the fish and the seaweed. I saw a large child’s doll floating face down in the water; I commented to Lachlan. I could have passed by, but I bent down and lifted it out. It was no doll.
It was a two-year-old child and, for all appearance, this child was dead. Whitish-blue skin, eyes open and pupils completely dilated. It is an image which will stay with me forever, a huge shock.
I placed the child on the ground, head down the slope and fingers in his mouth to clear the airways and started CPR. I was praying all the time… “Jesus, let this kid live”. All hell broke loose around me. Brothers and sisters turned up screaming. His mother knelt by his side and cried, “Don’t leave us!” He was just so tiny, I was seriously breaking ribs… or so I thought.
Lachlan called an ambulance and went to find it. As he ran through the caravan park, someone saw him and, without knowing what was happening, informed him that there was an emergency nurse at site 171. Amazing!
I was still pumping. An uncle turned up and gave some breaths. I was counting the minutes. One, two, three. Nothing. Four, five, six. Praying. Seven, eight, nine.
After 10 minutes, the child’s solar plexus convulsed and he took a breath, just as the nurse and the ambulance turned up. I stood back and let the professionals take over. The police had arrived and it was an emotional place.
The child was taken to the Mallacoota airstrip and kept alive for an hour before being flown to Canberra and intensive care. All signs were seemingly hopeless. The family was Christian and they contacted their churches. Our campsite at the Beach Mission did the same. A huge network of prayer started all over Victoria thanks to social media.
The police took statements from me and Lachlan; they were preparing for a coroner’s report.
In Canberra, the staff had little hope. From 10pm till 5am, the little boy laid unconscious, showing no signs of anything beyond breathing. People prayed.
At 5am he groaned and opened his eyes and said, “I am hungry”.
The hospital staff were amazed. They used the world miracle; they said kids in that state usually take a week to open their eyes and then are severely compromised, with significant brain damage.
Twenty-four hours later the boy was playing in the ward, and in 48 hours he was discharged to return with a grateful family to Mallacoota.
I was able to pray with them and talk about their terrible experience, one which became a miracle of faith and the healing of a young child in the dark hours before dawn.
So, remember to value the life of your children, especially near water, and never doubt that God is listening when times are the toughest.
Chris Ward is the director of chaplaincy and student services at Aitken College, Greenvale Melbourne.