Waylon walking, at home after near drowning in Petrolia


Gillian Burnett feels like she has her baby back. 

Less than two weeks after 21 month-old Waylon Saunders fell into an icy outdoor pool at his Petrolia daycare, he’s home again, toddling around with help and playing with his three year-old sister Aberdeen.

On Jan. 24, the Mooretown boy was brought to Charlotte Eleanor Englehart Hospital after being pulled from the pool and worked on by firefighters and paramedics. His heart didn’t beat on its own for two hours. His body temperature plummeted to 23 degrees. Doctors gave Waylon less than a 10 per cent chance of survival.

But little by little, Waylon improved. Last week, he was moved out of critical care.

Sunday, staff at Victoria Hospital in London took out his feeding tube. Monday, he was holding Burnett’s hand, walking around his hospital room. By 5 pm, he was walking through the door of his family’s home. 

Burnett tells The Independent it is “beautiful to see” her son walking again. 

“We feel like we’ve got our baby back,” she says.

Waylon Saunders

The toddler’s progress is amazing medical staff and his family. 

Doctors initially didn’t expect Waylon to live past the first night. When he regained consciousness, they cautioned there was damage to his left side and it might be permanent. Burnett worried he might never be able to ride a bike.

But by Monday, her son was first walking while holding her hand and then toddling around on his own. Burnett says the doctors and hospital are “amazed with all that he’s done in the week. They thought he might be a paraplegic.

“He shouldn’t be here today and he’s blown everybody away.”

And while Waylon is doing so much better than expected, he’ll still face lots of doctors appointments for a while as the medical community monitors how he’s doing.

Burnett says the boy’s speech has not completely returned, however he’s already calling his sister by name.

“He’s not as communicative as before… he’s saying some of his words but not the full amount he normally does yet. 

“We have another appointment to reassess how he’s doing but I have a good feeling in my heart his speech will be what it was.”

And while the family is home again, there is still worry Burnett says it was “relaxing and beautiful” to come home Monday but “my anxiety peaked through the roof because the doctors weren’t around. There are so many things that could go wrong…At the hospital, the doctors are right there… You have so many ‘what ifs’ in your head, and you don’t know the outcome. You can only put your trust in God and he’ll help you through the rest of the journey.”

Burnett says the support of friends, family and absolute strangers has been “heartwarming and beautiful… I’m thankful for every single person.”

And Burnett says it will take a while to process all that has happened to her family. “Our life was flipped upside down – it’s been a crazy, overwhelming two weeks,” she wrote in a social media post.

“We’ve had highs and lows but our journey isn’t over; really it’s just begun.”