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Nate Wichers: Two reasons to celebrate

Jenni and Army Staff Sergeant Jonathan Wichers, now have two reasons to celebrate: the health of their son and Sergeant Wichers’ safe return from Iraq.

In April 2010, Jenni Wichers, of Crockett, Texas, and her family gathered at her parents’ home to celebrate. Her husband, Jonathan, had returned from a year-long deployment in Iraq the day before. But while eating lunch, the Wichers realized their three-year-old son, Nate, was not at the table.

"We looked up, and I said, 'Where’s Nate?'" Mrs. Wichers recalls. Minutes later, her husband found Nate at the bottom of the family pool. The father dove in, pulled the boy out, and immediately began giving him CPR. Nate was breathing again but remained unconscious when the helicopter arrived for the flight to Scott & White in Temple.

When the helicopter touched down on Scott & White’s rooftop helipad, "a whole team of people met us," Mrs. Wichers says. Doctors rushed Nate to the Emergency Department, and a chaplain and nurse sat down with Mrs. Wichers to explain what the physicians would do to save Nate’s life.

The power of family centered care

The greatest fear in near-drowning cases is neural damage caused by lack of oxygen to the brain. So after being stabilized in the ER, Nate was transferred to the pediatric intensive care unit. Doctors placed him on a respirator and kept him sedated for the next 36 hours so that his brain would rest as his body recovered.

When Nate regained consciousness, mother and child were reunited. "Doctors immediately put him in my arms because they knew that would comfort him," Mrs. Wichers says. Nate awoke with no signs of trauma to the brain. He was released after three more days of tests and observation. Nate, who does not remember the accident, was eager to go swimming again weeks later.

"He is back to his old self," his mother says.

Mrs. Wichers praises the emergency physicians and pediatric neurologists who saved Nate’s life. She also is grateful to the team who tended to the family’s emotional needs. "All the nursing staff and doctors were wonderful, very informative, and real. They thoroughly answered our questions. And they were quiet when they could tell we didn’t want to talk."

That level of sensitivity helped the Wichers family get through several harrowing days, Mrs. Wichers says. "We were really impressed with the hospital system, and what the whole staff did for us."