‘He’s a miracle’

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Toddler recovering after falling into pool

“He’s a miracle.”

That from the grandmother of Mooretown area toddler who against all odds is recovering after spending at least five minutes submerged in the icy waters of an outdoor pool. And while the family of Waylon Saunders, 20 months, is hopeful, they’re still waiting to see the long term affects of the near-death experience.

Petrolia/North Enniskillen firefighters were first on the scene Jan. 24 and began CPR on the little boy. He was taken to Petrolia’s Charlotte Eleanor Englehart Hospital where his mom, Gillian Burnett, says doctors at worked tirelessly to save the toddler. 

Burnett says Waylon “had no heartbeat for over two hours” and arrived at hospital “with a temp of 23 from the icy water.” She added he was given less than a 10 per cent chance of survival. He was taken to Victoria Hospital in London. LeBlond says doctors told the family “We did what we can do, it’s up to Waylon now.”

Little by little, the toddler made progress. By Tuesday, Waylon moved out of critical care and could be cuddled by his mom instead of lying hooked up to life support machines. 

“I just want to give a massive thank you to Dr Taylor and all Petrolia staff who worked on my son Tuesday evening,” she said in a social media post. “I cannot put into words my gratitude to you all. How hard you all fought for my son’s life is the reason he’s here today … from every piece of my soul thank you.”

“The staff that’s there is beyond incredible,” Burnett told The Independent Tuesday as she held Waylon in her arms beside his hospital bed.

“They had like 15 people each of them taking turns to give Waylon the best compressions that they could … One of the doctors came in to say that they were never gonna give up on him. All the doctors had tears in their eyes, and they’ve been calling to see how he’s doing they said that they were looking at like it was their kid and they weren’t gonna give up.”

Burnett added her son’s recovery is “living proof God is real and he’s just amazing.”

“I kind of lost my faith before all this happened. I don’t know. I just I knew in my heart that God wasn’t gonna let anything happen to him and I could feel it,” Burnett said Tuesday.

“We prayed and we prayed and we had 1000s of people praying for Waylon. I know the doctors and nurses, they did a whole lot that day. They’re a big part of why Waylon is  here but he can’t be dead for two and a half hours and then not say that God did something here. I fully believe that God brought Waylon back and God’s got a purpose here for sure.”

LeBlond agrees saying she and hundreds of people all over the world were praying for her grandson’s recovery. 

Burnett and Waylon’s father, Garth Saunders, have been at the little boy’s side constantly since his accident. 

That prompted friend, Chloe Ingles, to launch a GoFundMe page to help raise money for their expenses while they stayed with their son. 

 “We hope to ease some of the burden on these wonderful parents in such tragic circumstances,” she wrote on the page which by Tuesday had raised over $15,000. Ingles was also asking community members to pray for Waylon’s recovery. 

“Waylon is an amazing little boy who started walking early so he could keep up with his big sister. He has a contagious laugh that lights up the whole household and makes it impossible not to laugh with him. He has an infectious curiosity for everything around him and dearly loves his mum and dad.”

Other members of the community have rallied around the family to help with expenses.

Meranda Jansen of Jansen Homestead and Highlands in Wilkesport is hosting “Highland Kisses and Waylon Wishes” Sunday offering photo sessions for people with their animals in return for a donation to the family. “He’s very close in age to my little boy and my heart absolutely aches for this family,” she said. 

“ I’m so overjoyed and content with how much support and love our community has shown them.”

In two days, a number of local businesses have chipped in with donations of food and services. Jansen hopes the event will raise over $3,000 for Waylon’s family. 

Burnett and her family are amazed by the community support they are receiving.

“It’s breathtaking to be honest. I never expected this kind of support. I didn’t expect that Waylon would touch somebody’s lives, I guess people look at him and think of their children. 

“We always say it will never happen to me and then it does. It’s amazing we’ve had friends, family, the community all work together to show support. I get at least 40 messages a day from random people asking how Waylon is doing saying that they’re thinking and praying over him,” she says. 

“Our communities come together to because they know that this is not going to be one day, but a journey for him. It can affect his whole life.”

And that weighs heavily on Burnett’s mind. 

Doctors in London didn’t expect Waylon to live through the first night. Now, they looking for signs of damage. 

So far, the little boy is smiling and speaking, but not as much has he normally does. 

Burnett says his left side is also affected, he’s not able to move his leg right now.  Doctors aren’t sure how much of that will return.  

“We don’t know if he’s ever going to be able to ride a bike if he’s ever going to be able to walk. We don’t know what his future looks like. We just know what today that is.”

“Everybody is just kind of in awe of how strong Waylon is and how he keeps persevering after everything that he’s already went through. He’s just 20 months old. He’s just this little baby that took on more than an adult can and he still keeps pushing through. He’s a fighter.”

Burnett isn’t sure how long Waylon will be in the hospital. Doctors have said it could be at least another week.

Meantime, the accident which led to his hospitalization haunts her. Waylon and his three year old sister had just started going to daycare. 

“I always said to that I would never trust anybody with my child unless it was a family member and then I put them into daycare. They were only there for two weeks.

“You feel a lot of guilt you know, when things like this happen, because you just think about all the what ifs and it sucks. It really sucks.”

Burnett adds Waylon’s sister saw her little brother in the water. Tuesday, she was able to visit him to see that he was okay.

So far, there have been few answers to what actually happened.

“I have about 1,000 questions and I wish I could figure them out. It just didn’t make sense to me how Waylon got outside and fell into a pool. It doesn’t make sense. You’re supposed to be watching him – how did he get outside?”

Burnett says she is angry but has forgiven the day care provider, because “I know that’s what God would want me to do…What she must have experienced was probably pretty traumatic and she’s going to have to live with that for the rest of her life.”

Lambton OPP say they are investigating the incident at the daycare. Const. Jamie Bydeley says the OPP aren’t confirming any details at this time.

While the investigation goes on, Burnett is grateful to be able to be with her little boy who is free from life support. “When they’re in that kind of state with tubes everywhere, you’re not allowed to do anything. We couldn’t even really rub his head, we can only hold his head. We had to be really careful.

“So, to be able to pick them up and snuggle him is something else. It makes you really appreciate the little things in life.”